Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, 49th Fighter Wing commander, speaks at the retirement ceremony of the first six F-117A Nighthawks flying to Tonopah Test Range, Nev., March 12 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Mayo)
Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, 49th Fighter WIng commander, signs the bay door of one of the retiring F-117A Nighthawks. Six Nighthawks retired to Tonopah Test Range, Nev., March 12. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter)
by Senior Airman Terri Barriere
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office
3/12/2007 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- It was a bittersweet occasion for many members of Team Holloman as the first six F-117A Nighthawks made their final flight into retirement March 12. More than 500 spectators from Holloman and the Alamogordo community showed up to sign the jets and say their goodbyes.
"With the launch of these great aircraft today, the circle comes to a close - their service to our nation's defense fulfilled, their mission accomplished and a job well done," said Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, 49th Fighter Wing commander. "We send them today to their final resting place -- a home they are intimately familiar with -- their first, and only, home outside of Holloman, Tonopah Test Range, Nevada."
General Goldfein, the last bandit, flew the first F-117A out of Holloman.
"This jet is part of an American success story," he said. "We should never let something like that fade away unnoticed. We need to send it off with class and style."
As the jets arrive at Tonopah, the wings will be removed and the jets will be stored in their original hangars. For those who maintained and flew them for so many years, that is the saddest part.
"It's the end of one era and the start of a new," said Master Sgt. Michael Gann, 49th Fighter Wing Safety Office. Sergeant Gain is a former crew chief for the F-117 and said though he hates to see it go, he understands the need to move on and keep up with new technology.
Retired Col. Klaus Klause, former 49th Operations Group commander, said he doesn't want the jets to go but he knows it's inevitable.
"I had a tear in my eye when I heard about the jets retiring," he said. "This is a bittersweet day and even though my jet is deployed, I signed all six of these."
The colonel said he'll be thinking about the first time he flew an F-117 as the jets fly out.
"These jets fly like any other aircraft, but they have so much more 'magic,'" he said, referring to the jets' stealth technology.
Though the ceremony marks the end of an era, the legacy the jets leave behind will continue to live on.
All six of the retiring jets took part in the three major conflicts that occurred during the program's lifespan - Operations Desert Storm, Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom, and represent more than 14,000 F-117 sorties since the first was delivered to the Air Force in November 1982.
"The Nighthawk story is truly one of vision, guts, passion, heroism, defiance and incredible risk taking ... a story both uniquely American and, I believe, uniquely Air Force," said General Goldfein. "How appropriate that we, the Nighthawk Team responsible for writing the final chapter in this story, gather here together to send the first six Nighthawks off in style."