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Two F-16s achieve 6,000 hour milestone

Capt. Nick Edwards, pilot with the 421st, fills out his post-flight forms documentation after Aircraft 87-0428 flew over 6,000 hours. Staff Sgt. Jason Butts, Staff Sgt. Charlie Martin, and Senior Airman James Fairbanks look on before they begin post-flight maintenance.

Capt. Nick Edwards, pilot with the 421st, fills out his post-flight forms documentation after Aircraft 87-0428 flew over 6,000 hours. Staff Sgt. Jason Butts, Staff Sgt. Charlie Martin, and Senior Airman James Fairbanks look on before they begin post-flight maintenance.

BALAD AIR BASE, IRAQ -- Two F-16s assigned to the "Black Widows" of the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit celebrated their 6,000th flying hour during two recent Operation Iraqi Freedom combat missions over Iraq.

Flown by Lt. Col. Mark Cline, 421st EFS commander, and Capt. Nick Edwards, the Black Widow's Squadron flagship Aircraft 88-0471, and the 388th Operations Group flagship, aircraft 88-0428, were the first Block 40 F-16s to achieve this milestone in combat.

This accomplishment is rare among Block 40 F-16s, only one other Block 40 F-16 in the Air Force inventory has reached the 6,000 flying-hour mark.

Designers of the F-16CG forecasted the aircraft design life to be 8,000 flying hours, according to Lockheed Martin officials. However, the Air Force expects the F-16 to be in service beyond the year 2020, taking the jets beyond 8,000 flight hours.

Aircraft 88-0428 was accepted into service in September 1989 and aircraft 88-0471 was accepted in January 1990, and have been assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, ever since. They are no strangers to flying in the combat environment. According to the 388th FW Historian, the Black Widows have deployed nine times and flown over 13,000 combat sorties in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, five deployments in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and three deployments in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

The dedicated crew chief on aircraft 88-0471 is Senior Airman Trent Nelson with assistants Senior Airman Jason Wall and Senior Airman Tom Manues. The DCC on aircraft 88-0428 is Senior Airman Victor Alvarez with assistant Senior Airman James Speicher.

"It is an honor to crew such a great jet, especially doing what she was made for here in a combat zone," Airman Nelson said. "It's a great feeling to crew the flagship and launch Colonel Cline for a milestone like this, but it's just 0471-- the pride of the fleet-- taking care of business."
"I would like to take credit for this accomplishment, however, credit should go to all the Black Widows, as well as previous DCC's and Assistant DCC's," said Airman Alvarez. "Its pretty awesome to be one of the first to achieve this, especially with 0428, the finest jet in the wing."

"Upgrades and improvements to the internal structure, engines and parts of the F-16 through various depot level programs have helped extend the life of these aircraft," said Capt Mark Sloan, the 421 Aircraft Maintenance Unit Officer in Charge. "However, for these jets to have reached this milestone is a testament to the maintenance professionals that work these jets every day."

"I've seen these jets roll over the 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 flying hour mark, and the incredible thing is that after all these hours, they are flying as well today as they did when they were accepted off the production line," said CMSgt Dave Edwards, 421 AMU NCOIC. "The reason these jets have performed this well, for this long, is the blood, sweat and tears maintainers pour into these aircraft."