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F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Viper takes back to the skies after 1130 days

April 21, 2022 (by A1C Adrian Salazar ) - After 1,130 days, an F-16 Viper with the tail number #88-0166 took to the skies again for a functional check flight on April 19, 2022.

Maj. Christopher Luke, 54th FTS instructor pilot, conducts pre-flight checks in F-16D block 40 #88-0166 on April 19th, 2022 at Holloman AFB. [USAF photo by A1C. Adrian Salazar]

This success is the result of a combined effort from the 8th Fighter Squadron’s contracted maintenance team, known as Amentum, and the F-16 depot team from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

To test the newly repaired Viper’s capabilities, and ensure the aircraft is fit for training, the 8th FS pushed this jet to its limits during a functional check flight. Functional check flights are conducted to ensure all aircraft systems are working properly and are typically performed after heavy maintenance.

During a flight in 2019, tail number 0166 flew into rough weather and was diverted to Roswell, New Mexico. The aircraft lost its brakes during landing and went off of the taxiway. Upon examination the aircraft was deemed unserviceable, it was then disassembled and returned to Holloman.

"There was a lot of skepticism whether this aircraft was going to come back together," said Timothy Keating, Amentum program manager. "At one point it was considered for the graveyard in Davis Monthan (Air Force Base, Arizona) before it was determined we would be putting it back together."

Repairs for the disassembled aircraft began at Holloman by a depot team from Hill AFB. Once the first phase of repairs was complete it was time for Amentum personnel to replace all hydraulic components, horizontal stabilizers, and wings, rebuild the cockpit to include the seat and canopy, and do a complete engine install.

"There’s nothing better than watching a jet get repaired from start to finish, especially one in the condition that 0166 was in, and watch it take flight," said Phillip Johnson, Amentum's lead production superintendent.

This historic flight also marks Amentum’s final launch from Holloman, as they shift from flight line maintenance to working back-shop repairs.

"We’re shifting to a heavy maintenance operation now, any job that can’t be completed in three days or less will be coming to us," said Johnson. "I enjoy producing sorties and putting jets in the air, that’s what I do this for, but it’s going to be a welcome change because it’s a lot less stressful working on aircraft parts."

Amentum has supported the 54th Fighter Group’s F-16 training mission for five years following the 8th FS’s reactivation in 2017. They are now passing the torch to the newly transitioned 8th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. Following the 8th AMU’s transition to active-duty Airmen, their parent squadron, the 849th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, became the largest of its kind in the Air Force.

"It’s been an honor working in the 8th AMU and providing them with functional aircraft to conduct their training, so this is bittersweet," said Keating. "I’ve been doing this 43 years and it always gives you a sense of pride to pass a jet along. I feel good about passing these jets to future aircrew and pilots continuing the mission."

Courtesy of 49th Wing Public Affairs

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