Aircraft 91-0343, a U.S. Air Force 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 U.S. Air Force to cross the 10,000 flight hours milestone, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 23, 2020.
The aircraft roared past 10,000 flight hours with U.S. Air Force 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.”
While other USAFE-AFAFRICA F-16s assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy reached 10,000 flight hours prior to 91-0343, they were of the block 40 variant. The block 40 variant is an older model F-16 and has been in service longer. Aircraft 91-0343 was the first of the newer block 50 F-16s in USAFE-AFAFRICA to reach 10,000 flight hours and it also broke the Air Force 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 F16’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, U.S. Air Force 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.
“The fact that the same aircraft are here and still making the mission happen at a very high level – we lead the Air Force in nearly every F-16 metric – is a testament to the hard work and dedication of generations of maintenance Airmen,” Yager said.
Aircraft 91-0343 is expected to continue service in the Air Force for decades to come.
“This aircraft also has structural updates scheduled that will take its projected service life until 2080,” Yates said. “Pound for pound, the best fighter around!”