Commentary: Pilot insight: F-16 to F-35 transition

TODD CROMAR/U.S. Air Force
Lt. Col. Kevin Hall, 514th Flight Test Squadron, receives a traditional soaking from family members and coworkers following his final flight in the F-16 Fighting Falcon April 21 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Hall is transitioning to the F-35 Lightning II.
75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
April 27, 2017

(Editor’s notes: Lt. Col. Kevin Hall is a test pilot assigned to the 514th Flight Test Squadron. On April 21, he completed his final flight in the F-16. Before the flight, he offered some insights into that aircraft and talked about his transition to the F-35.)

 

75th ABW PA: You’ve completed your final flight in the F-16. As you reflect on that aircraft, what thoughts come to mind? 

Lt. Col. Hall: The F-16 was the first fighter I was qualified in way back in 2001, so she holds a special place in my heart and my career. People like to ask what my favorite jet is and I tell them that the F-16 is my Sunday driver sports car. We fly the F-16 clean (no fuel tanks and no combat stores) for the check flight profile, and it is always a joy to fly because of the incredible thrust to weight ratio without all the additional weight and drag. I’m also impressed how far the F-16 has come in the 16 years since I started flying her, particularly the incredible Auto GCAS (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System) capability, saving several lives so far, which I had the privilege to help develop and flight test while at Edwards AFB.

75th ABW PA: What’s next for you? 

Lt. Col. Hall: The F-16 was always a risk mitigation as we stood up the F-35 program here with minimal jets and flights available. I have been flying both jets for the past 3 1/2 years, so not much will change except I will now be able to focus exclusively on the F-35 program. Our next challenge, after successfully getting both the F-35B and the F-35A to IOC (initial operational capability), is to focus on getting the F-35C to its IOC milestone. We completed the first three F-35Cs in this past month, and they will continue to be a significant portion of the depot workload.

75th ABW PA: What are your thoughts on transitioning from the F-16 to the F-35?

Lt. Col. Hall: Having flown the F-16 makes the transition to the F-35 very straightforward. The F-35 is an amazing aircraft that will serve our country admirably and I’m very proud to be a major part of that transition. This flight is symbolic of the passing of the torch from the F-16 to the F-35, both for me personally, here at Hill AFB, and for the Air Force. We now have operational F-35 capability, F-16s at Hill AFB are winding down, we have full F-35 depot capability, and the torch handoff is being completed...it is a historic time.

75th ABW PA: Anything else to add?

Lt. Col. Hall: I’d like to thank my family for their support. I’m frequently TDY 20+ times a year and this flight is as much for my wife and children, who think spraying Dad with water at work is the greatest thing since the invention of Minecraft.