As explained by 1st Lt. Karissa Rodriguez in the article Squadron honors fallen Airman on F-15’s final flight, the retirement flight of “Jet 025” recognized Maj. James Duricy, on the F-15 that replaced his aircraft lost during a mishap 19 years ago.
Duricy piloted Jet 022 when the structural integrity of the aircraft failed. He died after ejecting from the aircraft. The mission was to test the AIM-9X, a new air-to-air missile at that time during high-speed flight.
Maj. Ryan Stec, 40th Flight Test Squadron, piloted 025 for the retirement flight using the same mission call sign Duricy did that day, Quell 2. The test squadron placed the jet in a similar configuration as Duricy’s test flight.
“This aircraft has a special place in my heart since I’ve had the privilege of having my name placed on the side for the past two years,” said Stec. “Being able to fly 025’s last flight and participate in this memorial service is a tremendous honor.”
Col. Sean Bradley, a first-hand witness to the accident, came out to pay his respects to Duricy and Jet 025. He was the test’s acting flight test engineer in 2002 and observed the test from another aircraft.
“This is an event I have often thought about during my career”,” said Bradley, now with the Armament Directorate. “From the test community, it is always important to recognize those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
For 025’s final flight, Eglin’s fire department hosed down the aircraft, memorializing not only the last touchdown of the aircraft, but Duricy’s last flight. Due to the aircraft’s age, and the number of hours flown, the F-15C is one of the first to be taken out of the lineup to be retired.
Eventually, an F-15EX will replace jet 025, continuing the test mission to deliver safe and sustainable systems to the warfighter. The retired aircraft will later be stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, at an aircraft storage facility.
The Air Force plans to acquire 144 F-15EXs from Boeing, to replace F-15C/D models and refresh the F-15 fleet.
At an average age of more than 37 years, the F-15C/D fleet is fast approaching the end of its useful life and operating on the margins of structural integrity. The F-15EX provides a cost-effective and expedient solution to refresh the F 15C/D fleet and augment the F-15E fleet to meet National Defense Strategy capability and capacity requirements well into the 2040s, while preserving aircraft availability from significant impacts that service life extension and modernization programs would have on the F-15C/D fleet.
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