OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
A newly refurbished F-16 Fighting Falcon was unveiled during a Tail Flash ceremony here held July 21, in celebration of the 36th Fighter Squadron “Flying Fiends” 100th Year Anniversary.
The F-16 was brought back to life by members from the 51st Maintenance Squadron Corrosion Control Shop repairing and repainting its tail.
“Basically this was a clean slate, we had to sand everything down on this plane, all the old paint and [install] a new tail flash that was custom made,” said Senior Airman William Williams, 51st MXS sheet metal and corrosion technician. “We used a Gerber to design different stencils so we can get the design right.”
There was custom work from members of the corrosion control shop such as the hand designed letter fonts and stripes that run along the aircraft’s tail.
“We let the Airmen take the reins on this,” said Tech. Sgt. Paul Cotrill, 51st MXS corrosion manager and NCO in charge of corrosion control. “This is something that I’ve only done once in my 14-year career, and it was refurbishing an F-85 saber. This is pretty much a one time in a career opportunity and they got the chance to lead the charge and they knocked it out of the park.”
Without any technical orders or guidance to aid them, the corrosion control team was able to complete the aircraft in less than three weeks.
“This is probably [one of] the hardest aircraft we’ve ever done,” said Williams. “It takes so much work just to get the checkers on one side of the plane to match the other side of the plane because you can’t see both sides at the same time. We have to match everything up as best as we can. Certain contours of the plane are not same on both sides so it’s even harder because you can’t just print the same thing and expect it to look the same on the other side.”
“It’s going to feel pretty good when we see it takeoff because so much work went into it,” said Williams. “I hope everyone likes it.”
The F-16 embraces the Flying Fiends culture of the 36th FS.
“What we see in the tail flash is the combination of two distinctive histories. The red striped tail flash represents the history of the fabulous Flying Fiends. The tail flash specifically became famous during the Korean War as we flew with our red striped tail flash on our F-80 Shooting Stars and our F-86 Sabres,” said Capt. Wayne Mowery, 36th Fighter Squadron jet fighter pilot. “Underneath the red stripes you see the checkered tail design and that is the history of the 51st Fighter Wing, which we officially became a part of in 1974.”
“Being a Flying Fiend means to be a part of a legacy of more than 100 years of combat aviation. We’ve been involved in every major conflict from the 20th century: from World War I to WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and about 36 years of alert readiness on the Korean peninsula,” said Mowery. “To be a member of the squadron means to be a continuation of the heritage to this day. That tail flash represents our individual unit history, and it also honors our wing history.”