June 28, 2016 (by SSgt. John Wilkes) - A new static aircraft was immortalized in the history of the 180th Fighter - the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
USAF F-16A block 10 #80-0519 is photographed with 180FW Airmen beginning the six-week process of transforming a retired F-16 to look like new with 180FW markings. Photo taken on April 2nd, 2014. [USAF photo by SSgt. John Wilkes]
Preserving history doesn't happen overnight. 180FW retiree Senior Master Sgt. George Brubaker began the process to acquire the jet more than five years ago.
"To begin the process I was in contact with the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio," said Brubaker. "After talking with them they had a pool of nine jets to choose from but we wanted one with local significance."
The wing's new aircraft, tail number F-16A 80-0519, has a history of its' own, entering service in 1981 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, where it remained for nine years before being transferred to Wight-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Serving an additional four years at Wright-Patterson, the jet was finally retired in 1994 and prepared for long-term storage.
According to Master Sgt. Barry Fawcett, fabrication supervisor with the 180FW maintenance group, an aircraft is deemed unserviceable and deactivated after approximately 10,000 flight hours and every effort is made to recycle and reuse the working parts. When this process is complete aircraft are often sent to the 'boneyard' or repurposed as a static display. Unserviceable aircraft are stored in the boneyard, located at Davis- Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
"The Air Force Museum owns all static displays and we maintain the displays on our base," Fawcett said.
There are multiple stages in preparing a jet as a static display.
"The first is body and structural work, the second is to replace and install missing components, the third is sanding, followed by priming, painting and marking," said Tech Sgt. Michael Goulette, corrosion control manager with the structural maintenance shop. "From start to finish the process takes approximately four to six weeks."
Structural maintainers have extensive training on how to identify, treat and prevent various types of corrosion to maximize the life span of active and retired aircraft. Corrosion control plays a vital role in minimizing the wear and tear inflicted on the aircraft during flight. Over time, daily flying and exposure to the elements can cause parts and pieces of the aircraft to corrode, leading to performance issues and safety hazards.
"This is our first time painting an entire aircraft in many years due to the size of our facilities," Goulette said. "It's great to be able to complete this job from beginning to end here. Projects of this scale are usually done at another location."
Static displays are symbolic, said Fawcett, they represent the history of the 180FW, and how we got to where we are.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon has been in service in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard for more than 30 years. The first F-16, a 4th generation compact, multi-role fighter aircraft, arrived at the 180FW in 1992.
In an air combat role, the F-16's maneuverability and combat radius exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. In an air-to-surface role, it can fly more than 500 miles, deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft and return to its starting point. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack situations around the world.
The 180FW has flown numerous aircraft since its beginnings in 1917. From the PT-1 Trusty, A-26 Invaders, F-51 Mustang and F-84 E/F Thunderjet to the A-7 Corsair and of course the current aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The 180FW supports world-wide contingencies, deploying more than 300 Airman both overseas and in-garrison. The unparalleled performance of the maintenance and corrosion control Airmen plays a huge part in the success and operational readiness of the 180FW.