Old jet breaks new barriers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

One of Misawa's most famous flightline assets hit a milestone this week. BOB--a Block 50 F-16 Fighting Falcon, tail number 808--surpassed 9,500 hours of flight time on Nov. 20 at the ripe age of 27, making it older than many lieutenants and captains who fly "him." 

Almost every pilot stationed at Misawa since 1990 has had the opportunity to fly BOB as part of his or her training regimen, to include some of Misawa's current leadership.

Ten years ago, Lt. Col. Matt Kenkel, the 14th Fighter Squadron commander, flew BOB as a first-assignment F-16 pilot.

“Misawa was my first F-16 base,” said Kenkel. “I'm really living the dream coming back as the commander of the fighter squadron I grew up in--there's nothing better.”

Although Kenkel racked up numerous flying hours on BOB, he credits all the hard work in keeping the jet mission-ready to the maintainers.

“None of the credit goes to the pilots who flew BOB,” Kenkel said. “If you think about things like age, wear and tear, all the life cycles, engine changes, gear changes, corrosion preventive maintenance and fixing cracks in the skin, that's on the shoulders of the maintainers. It's really a tribute to those guys who have maintained BOB, giving him a 27-year lifespan and kept him flying this long.”

Like Kenkel, Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Peck, the 14th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production superintendent, worked with BOB during his first assignment. While deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, as part of Operation Southern Watch in 1999, Peck worked on the aircraft as a maintainer.

“Remembering working on BOB as a crew chief and sharing pictures of the jet now with guys I was stationed with in the 90s and early 2000s is amazing,” said Peck. “It’s been really cool to see his progression to flagship; BOB brings back a lot of memories from when I was at my first assignment.”

As the years passed, younger Airmen took on Peck's former role. To ensure maximum safety and longevity of the jets, though, maintenance hours have drastically increased since Peck's time as a crew chief. For every flight hour, the 35th Maintenance Group has to expend 19.5 man-hours to ensure the jet operates at the highest standard, providing mission success and the preservation of the F-16.

“The precision and effort these maintainers put into each aircraft has allowed us to fly BOB up to 9,500 hours,” Peck said. “This is a direct relation to how well we maintain our equipment and how the technicians don't accept anything substandard, making these jets perfect for every mission.”

Wing leadership also recognizes the extraordinary measures the 35th Maintenance Group undertakes to keep the jets ready to "Fight Tonight."

“Extending and preserving the life of our Block 50 F-16s is one of our maintenance team's most challenging objectives,” said Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander. “Hitting 9,500 hours on a jet slated to be phased out at 4,800 hours is astonishing, proving that, as technology continues to become more complex, the Airmen on the ground continue to meet and exceed the demands we confront them with. Thanks to the dedication of every Team Misawa maintenance professional, 'BOB' has the highest number of flying hours out of any of its kind in the U.S. Air Force.”

BOB is not slowing down anytime soon, either. The Air Force extended the life of every F-16 to 12,000 hours earlier this year, so tail number 808 will continue to grace Misawa's runways for many years to come.