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Last of F-16 fleet at Hill goes through phase

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --

As the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the F-35A Lightning II, milestones occur frequently. Another milestone is currently underway; the 388th Maintenance Squadron is performing its final phase inspection on an F-16 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The 388th Maintenance Squadron, Aircraft Inspection Section, is conducting the phase inspection—an in-depth break down of the aircraft based on a specific time frame—on tail number 429. During phase, most of the aircraft’s panels are removed and all systems are inspected, serviced and/or replaced. Any issues found during the phase inspection, such as necessary replacement of nuts and bolts or even a full flight control surface, are addressed and corrected.

“We inspect everything from inside the cockpit all the way back to the motor,” said  Tech. Sgt. Robert Turner, Inspection Section Dock Chief. “We perform operational checks of the flight controls, landing gear, and everything in between.”

According to Turner, this deeper airframe inspection cannot be completed during flightline operations, so the jet is brought inside the Aircraft Inspection Section’s hangar after every 400 flying hours. Other factors which determine when an aircraft goes through phase include a phase flow program and how the aircraft is operating prior to phase.

The time required for a phase inspection varies based on several factors, but the jet is typically scheduled for 10-14 days in the phase hangar.

“It all depends on the phase contract and what is found during inspection,” said Turner. “It can take longer based on required Time Change items, TCTOs (Time Compliance Technical Order), and unforeseen maintenance.”

Depending on the day and stage of phase the aircraft is in, anywhere from six to fifteen Airmen will work on a single aircraft.

The inspection section prides itself on high quality work leading to “Gold Standard” airplanes.

To Turner, this standard means “putting out a quality product to the aircraft maintenance units, giving them back an aircraft done with quality maintenance and top-notch workers.”

Performing phase on the last F-16 at Hill is meaningful to Turner and his teammates.

“To be able to say that you did the last phase inspection for the wing and for the F-16s flying out of Hill AFB is a tremendous thing,” he said. “It’s both joyous and sad at the same time. You have put a lot of hard work and dedication into making sure that every plane that comes through is the best product we can put out...it's still a great milestone to be a part of. It will be something we all will remember being here for and being part of history.”

After completing its phase inspection, tail number 429 is scheduled for permanent transfer to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, ending F-16 phase inspections at Hill AFB.