U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas --
The 457th Fighter Squadron, also known as 'the Spads', was first activated on Oct. 21, 1944. Since then, it has carried out it’s mission using numerous aircraft, at home and abroad.
Their first assigned airframe, the P-51 Mustang, and their current fighter, F-16 Fighting Falcon, recently had a chance to fly together in Atlantic City, N.J.
“The purpose was to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 457 FS with a formation flight of the current F-16 aircraft with a P-51 painted in the 457 FS livery [used] in World War II at Iwo Jima,” said Maj. Chad Lutz, 301st Fighter Wing Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment officer.
The squadron flagship, was painted specifically to commemorate the 75th birthday of the squadron, which was in 2019.
Coordination with Claire Aviation Inc., the owner of the P-51, and the start of discussions for this “…type of flight took place back in 2019 before the F-16 anniversary tail was even designed … contracting issues times three, and then COVID on top delayed the painting of the jet,” Lutz said.
Due to the delays, the actual flight was pushed to April, 16, 2021. On that day, Lt. Col. Jay Bernstein, F-35 program integration office operations lead, had the challenge to fly the camera chase jet, so that the imagery could be captured.
“It’s very important for us to remember our history and remember what those Airmen did by honoring the foundation they left for us,” Bernstein said.
Honoring Air Force legacy not only connects the past with the present but also transcends regional boundaries. In tribute, the 177th Fighter Wing and it’s 119th Fighter Squadron, from Atlantic City, N.J., allowed the 457 FS to use the airfield and facilities for this flight.
“The 'Jersey Devils' were extremely helpful and accommodating for us to accomplish this mission … Without their help, it would have never happened," said Lutz. "We also want to send a special thanks to our maintenance personnel who volunteered to participate in this."
As history would have it, the 301st Fighter Wing, the squadron’s parent unit, was selected as the first operational beddown location for the first Air Force Reserve F-35A Lightning II. The wing will eventually transition the F-16, just like its P-51, as a part of the squadron’s history and continue building its legacy with the fifth generation fighter.
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