The last of Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16 Fleet departed the Burlington International Airport on April 6. The ceremony commemorated 33 years of flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon at the 158th Fighter Wing.
The Vermont Air National Guard is celebrating the heritage of the F-16 which arrived in Vermont in spring of 1986, and has been called to support the nation in several instances including 122 consecutive days of combat air patrols over New York City after 9/11.
“This is a bittersweet time for the Vermont Air National Guard as we bid farewell to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a fighter aircraft that has performed magnificently in defense of our country,” said Col. David Smith, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, “but mostly I am so incredibly proud of the airmen, the men and women of the 158th Fighter Wing, their families and the support of our communities who have enabled this Wing to perform so superbly over the past three decades.”
The event included words from leadership and the take-off of the final F-16’s with a wave from our supporting partners at Burlington International Airport, before the jets depart at 1:58 p.m., symbol to the 158th Fighter Wing. The aircraft passed with a final formation over the airfield and crossed over the green mountains as they concluded their legacy at the Vermont Air National Guard.
“It represents 33 years of a single mission and upwards of 5000 people who have dedicated their life and a significant amount of efforts to maintaining this platform,” said Lt. Col Daniel Finnegan, Wing Plans Officer. “We are going to say goodbye to the platform and we are going to start a new chapter here at the wing with the F35 to get ourselves ready for the 5th generation platform which is really going to be the future of the Vermont Air National Guard.”
In recognition of merit, the Vermont Air National Guard was selected to receive the F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft and its arrival is slated for this fall. In preparation for the arrival of support equipment and aircraft, the current flying mission is being divested to other Air National Guard units who will continue flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done as the Wing transitions, but we are here celebrating the efforts of the men and women that have truly defined this period of performance and carved in stone the outstanding legacy of the Vermont Air National Guard,” said Smith, “I am proud to be a member of the Green Mountain Boy team and proud to celebrate this momentous occasion.”