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55th Fighter Generation Squadron return Viper into the fleet again

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cody Sanders
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Fighter Generation Squadron’s aircraft, tail number 6084 took flight for the first time in three years.

November 9, 2021, was the three year anniversary since 6084 hydroplaned during take-off, collapsed on the nose gear and skidded off the runway. While the pilot walked away unharmed, the same could not be said for the aircraft.

The aircraft intake was bent, rendering the F-16 Viper grounded, normally requiring it to be crated up and sent to the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base for a complete rebuild. Due to the depot being full, the 55th FGS took the project on themselves.

“When you have something that extensive, you have to sit down with engineering to discuss whether it’s worth the cost to the Air Force to save this aircraft and it was,” said Master Sgt. John Linfoot, 55th FGS production superintendent. “We had a depot team come to Shaw to ensure the airframe was not bent in a manner that would impact the integrity of the aircraft. They concluded the aircraft remained structurally sound.”

After 1,117 days of reassembling the jet, making repairs and performing extensive operational checks, aircraft 6084 was ready for a functional check flight.

Functional check flights require a qualified pilot to verify all major systems and subsystems of the aircraft’s powerplant, flight controls and avionics work properly before being considered fully mission capable.

“This is the gold standard of the inherent trust between our maintenance teams and pilots. The FCF profile calls for me to put the jet under stress to ensure it is safe for our line pilots,” said Lt. Col. Nathaniel Halley, 20th Fighter Wing instructor and evaluator pilot. “Because I know the track record and character of our maintenance professionals, I had no reservations climbing into a jet that had been down for that long.”

Getting the opportunity to restore their own jet enabled the 55th FGS to gain invaluable experience. However, restoring an aircraft from the ground up presented new challenges that tested Airmen’s tenacity.

“With every operational check that we would move forward a step, we would find something new and move back two steps,” said Linfoot. “That has an amazing training impact because these Airmen will have proficiencies from troubleshooting that you don’t normally get on the line and may have never gotten if we didn’t get this opportunity.”

The 55th FGS wasn’t the only beneficiary from restoring the jet. The 20th Fighter Wing and the Air Force as whole will benefit from having another F-16 Viper back in the fleet.

“It’s all about availability. Having another tail in the lineup allows lead production superintendents to have more jet capacity, which allows for more training lines for the fighter squadron and more experience for young pilots,” said Halley. “After the final functional check flight in the coming weeks and gaining mission capable status, Aircraft 6084 will be eligible to deploy worldwide.”