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Flight of the Iron F-16
by James Dunnigan
April 6, 2008

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A U.S. F-16 of the Vermont Air National Guard (VANG) set a record on March 24th, when it became the first F-16C to spend 7,000 hours in the air. The F-16C was originally designed for a service life of 4,000 hours in the air. But advances in engineering, materials and maintenance techniques have extended that to over 8,000 hours. The National Guard maintainers tend to be older and more experienced, and are noted for their innovative and diligent methods of keeping old aircraft flying.

The VANG aircraft, nicknamed "Lucky Lady", has had the same pilot for the last ten years, and has been to Iraq three times, where it flew 1,100 combat hours. Lucky Lady won't see 8,000 hours, as it is headed for retirement, after more than two decades of service. The VANG is getting some more recent F-16s as replacements. The 19 ton F-16 entered service 30 years ago, and over 4,200 have been produced, for use in 25 different countries. The aircraft is still in production, and is to be replaced in U.S. service by the F-35.

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