Aircraft 91-0343, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, became the first block 50 F-16 in U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa and the second in the USAF to cross the 10,000 flight hours milestone, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Apr. 23, 2020.
As told by Senior Airman Kyle Cope, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs, in the article Spangdahlem block 50 F-16 first in USAFE to cross 10,000 flight hours threshold, the aircraft roared past 10,000 flight hours with USAF Col. Jason Hokaj, 52nd Fighter Wing vice commander, at the stick and it was all made possible by generations of dedicated Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group over the past 26 years.
“This is such an amazing event to be part of,” Hokaj said. “To think about the amount of hands and minds used to get here, to keep this machine flying, it’s a testament to the professionalism of the 52nd MXG. I’m honored to be a small part of this history.”
The aircraft also broke the USAF record for being the fastest F-16 to reach 10,000 flight hours.
“Even though we are not the first F-16 to break 10,000 hours, we are the fastest,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Yates, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit lead production superintendent. “The first aircraft to break that mark, 90-0808 in Misawa, was delivered a year earlier than our aircraft. It took 26 years and 11 months to break the mark. Aircraft 91-0343 took 26 years and 9 months.”
Aircraft 91-0343 arrived at Spangdahlem in 1993 and has served in numerous engagements.
“The jet was born on July 21, 1993 and arrived to Spangdahlem in August of that year,” Yates said. “This jet has only been stationed at Spangdahlem, and has been assigned to both the 22nd and 480th Fighter Squadrons.
The 52nd Fighter Wing’s F-16’s, including 91-0343, have flown in countless exercises, partnered with jets from dozens of countries, and seen numerous combat hours.
“The jet has taken part in both Operation Northern and Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, and lastly Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016 where it helped set the record for most precision guided munitions delivered by an F-16 unit in a six-month period,” Yates said.
The current 52nd MXG chief enlisted manager, USAF Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Yager, started his career performing maintenance on several Spangdahlem AB F-16s, including aircraft 91-0343.
“This was my first duty station in 1997 and during those four years I was assigned to the same unit as this jet and had the opportunity to work it on many occasions,” Yager said. “I was here when our first jet hit 2,000 hours.”
Due to the efforts of the 52nd MXG, the 52nd FW remains prepared to respond to security threats, and 480th FS pilots provide continued deterrence throughout the European Theater.
Aircraft 91-0343 is expected to continue service in the Air Force for decades to come.
Photo credit: Senior Airman Kyle Cope and Airman 1st Class Alex Miller / U.S. Air Force
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