March 4, 2022 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Last wednesday a U.S. Air Force pilot safely landed their F-16C Fighting Falcon jet in Italy after suffering an in-flight emergency on Wednesday afternoon.
USAF F-16C block 40 #89-2035 from the 555th FS is the CO aircraft, seen over Aviano AB on August 11th, 2000. [Photo by Sergio Gava]
On takeoff for a patrol mission over Eastern Europe, the 555th Fighter Squadron's flagship (#89-2035
), loaded with live missiles, lost a wheel of the main landing gear.
The plane was forced to abort its mission and make an emergency landing, which it did successfully. It was first seen with the gear down (with the MLG's missing left wheel) and tailhook before eventually landing with the gear up.
The jet belongs to Aviano's 31st Fighter Wing, the only U.S. Air Force fighter wing in Europe south of the Alps. It oversees two F-16 squadrons, the 555th "Triple Nickel" Fighter Squadron
and the 510th "Buzzards" Fighter Squadron
, that are key to protecting NATO
’s southern region. It’s unclear which squadron the pilot was assigned to.
The 555th is currently supporting NATO’s air policing mission to fend off Russian pilots who behave erratically in or near the airspace of allied countries. More than 100 combat aircraft from the United States and Europe are flying nonstop patrols over NATO nations to protect Russia’s war in Ukraine from spilling over into their territory.