Pilot takes familial flight path

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot, left, and Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “Shooters” assistant superintendent, stand next to each other in front of jet 830 for a photo prior to takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot, left, and Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “Shooters” assistant superintendent, stand next to each other in front of jet 830 for a photo prior to takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017. Henderson was 830’s dedicated crew chief when Davis’s father, retired Col. Ricky Davis, F-16 pilot, was assigned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, circa 2003-2004. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

Tactical aircraft maintainers prepare to marshal out F-16CM Fighting Falcons at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017.

Tactical aircraft maintainers prepare to marshal out F-16CM Fighting Falcons at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017. The F-16 pilots assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron helped Airmen at the weapon instructor course at Nellis AFB, by participating in sorties simulating fights with dissimilar aircraft such as the F-15 Strike Eagle, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “Shooters” assistant superintendent, descends the ladder of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon, prior to 1st Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, taking off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “Shooters” assistant superintendent, descends the ladder of an F-16CM Fighting Falcon, prior to 1st Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, taking off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Oct. 10, 2017. The F-16 has been operational since 1979, lasting through several generations of pilots as a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft providing attack airpower and the suppression of enemy air defenses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- On a windy desert flightline, history nearly repeats itself, and the son of an F-16 pilot receives a glimpse of his father’s past life.

While on temporary duty to support a weapons instructor course, the stars aligned for 1st Lt. Brian Davis, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot, to receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Sgt. Henderson was out there helping to catch the jets as they were coming back,” said Davis, referring to a prior TDY. “He was grabbing some of my luggage out of the travel pod and while we were waiting for my flight lead he started talking about his experiences while in the Air Force.”

Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, “Shooters” assistant superintendent, told Davis that he had been stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, when it was an F-16 base. The two realized during the conversation that Henderson and Davis’s father had been assigned to the 522nd FS, “Fireballs.”

Not only had they been in the same squadron, Henderson had been Davis’s father’s dedicated crew chief around 2003.

Henderson said he “felt old,” working with Davis, part of the newest generation of Airmen.

“I always thought my dad’s job was just the coolest thing in the world,” said Davis. “That’s obviously why I wanted to become a pilot as well. I was fortunate enough to be able to fly the same kind of aircraft as he did.”

Davis, who is a fourth-generation fighter pilot, grew up around F-16 fighter squadrons. Although his father, retired Col. Ricky Davis, never pressured him to join the service, he eventually joined ROTC in college to become an Air Force officer.

“He tells me a lot that he’s glad I ended up taking that step and carrying on the legacy,” said Davis.

While TDY to Nellis AFB, Nevada, the 55th FS brought jet 830, Davis’s father’s old aircraft, although it was assigned to the 79th FS.


Henderson decided he wanted the honor of strapping two generations of fighter pilots into his old aircraft and worked with his unit for the chance.

“I don’t know if it’s ever been done in the active-duty F-16 world,” said Henderson. “I just don’t know, but I figured it would be something that would be truly remarkable.”

Prior to launching, Davis thought about his father.

“I was just thinking my dad sat in that same seat, probably ten years ago seeing the same dude out there (marshaling him out),” said Davis. “Seeing the same picture outside of the jet as my dad did was a strange experience. I feel really fortunate to be able to do that.”

While Davis was in the cockpit, Henderson changed his routine from the usual Shooters hand signals to something a little more nostalgic.

“Given the history of the aircraft and the aircrew inside, I did something a little different and unique to me,” said Henderson. “They’re some signals I used growing up and that I don’t use very often. They’re the ones I used with his father, therefore I figured it was quite appropriate.”

After preparing the aircraft to launch, Henderson taps his chest twice and begins to swing his fists in the air, a call to Davis to prepare for the upcoming fight, and he sends him off down the runway.

The young lieutenant takes off from Nellis AFB flying the same aircraft and marshalled out by the same tactical aircraft maintainer as his father had 15 years prior.