More than 40 F-16s to converge on Edwards AFB to celebrate the F-16 “First Flight” 50th Anniversary

More than 40 F-16s to converge on Edwards AFB to celebrate the F-16 “First Flight” 50th Anniversary

By Dario Leone
Jan 17 2024
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F-16 “First Flight” 50th Anniversary

On Jan. 25, 2024, Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) will roar with excitement as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the mighty F-16 Fighting Falcon, Alert 5 reports. This iconic aircraft, known for its sleek design and unparalleled agility, has revolutionized air combat and continues to serve as a vital weapon in the US Air Force (USAF) arsenal.

The F-16 “First Flight” 50th Anniversary Celebration will be hosted by the 416th Flight Test Squadron.

The 50th anniversary celebration at Edwards AFB promises to be a spectacle for the ages. Prepare for adrenaline-pumping aerial demonstrations by the awe-inspiring US Air Force Thunderbirds and the skilled Air Combat Command (ACC) F-16 Demo Team. But the excitement doesn’t end there.

In fact, the F-16 50th Celebration will also have static displays of F-16XL, the first F-16B, the X-62A VISTA, the Thunderbirds, Navy Aggressors, & more than 40 F-16s from around the country that will be flying in to be a part of our celebration. Furthermore, there will be STEM simulators and activities, F-16 engine and weapons displays, museum and history displays, 50th Anniversary memorabilia, the Blue Eagles Honor Guard.

More than 40 F-16s to converge on Edwards AFB to celebrate the F-16 “First Flight” 50th Anniversary
The first flight of YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards AFB on Jan. 20, 1974. Phil Oestricher was the test pilot. This well-known image was pulled from the 16mm film of the flight.

Beyond the breathtaking displays, the event will honor the heroes who made the F-16 a legend. Guest speakers like retired General Gary “Nordo” North, who achieve the first F-16 air-to-air kill, veterans of countless missions and two Desert Storm POWs will share their stories of courage and dedication.

The F-16 First Flight

The first flight of the General Dynamics YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards AFB on Jan. 20, 1974.

Phil Oestricher was the test pilot.

As Oestricher explained later, he was conducting high-speed taxi tests, the aircraft lifted off the runway, and rather than risking damage to the aircraft, Oestricher elected to lift off and go around to come in for a normal landing.

The first “official” flight was made on Feb. 2.

Wild Weasel F-16C print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-16CM Fighting Falcon – Wild Weasel 50th Anniversary, 2015

On Jan. 13, 1975 at Edwards AFB, Secretary of the Air Force John L. McLucas announced that the YF-16 had won the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition over the Northrop YF-17 for full scale development as the USAF’s next Air Combat Fighter.

The LWF program sought a small, lightweight, low cost, air superiority day fighter designed for high performance and ease of maintenance. The LWF was initiated because many in the fighter community believed that aircraft like the F-15 Eagle were too large and expensive for many combat roles.

Combat-ready status

The F-16A, a single-seat model, first flew in December 1976. The first operational F-16A was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon achieved combat-ready status in Oct. 1980. Since then many foreign nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Turkey, Egypt and Israel, have purchased the F-16.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force

F-16I model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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