Airmen receive F-16 launch training at Aviano

Airman 1st Class Melissa Maraj
Kaiserslautern American editor

***image1***Four Airmen from the 86th Maintenance Squadron had the unique opportunity to undergo training at Aviano Air Base, Italy, recently to become qualified to launch F-16 aircraft at Ramstein.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Kubo, Staff Sgt. Shane Spradlin, aero repair technicians and C-130 crewchiefs Senior Airman Joseph Merril and Staff Sgt. John Shipp became the first Airmen at Ramstein to attend a class of this kind.
The Airmen’s primary areas of responsibilities were C-130 aircraft, until a request for volunteers was made. A modified F-16 training class was developed and the four Airmen were sent to Aviano to begin the three-week course.
The Airmen went through training that qualified them each to launch and recover any of the three F-16 aircraft flown in with Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.
The training course included a week of class room instruction, a week in servicing the F-16 aircraft to include engine oil, re-fueling, hydraulics and a final week of actual launch and recover.
“We did quite a bit during our training at Aviano,” said Sergeant Kubo. “There’s a big difference between launching C-130 aircraft and F-16s. The hazard areas for launching are different and the work areas are smaller in an F-16, which gives you less room to move around in.”
During the training, the Airmen quickly discovered the differences in both aircraft and used skills they had already developed with the C-130 and applied it to the F-16 aircraft.
“It was great working on fighters for a change,” said Sergeant Spradlin.
“It amazed me at how complex the aircraft really is,” said Airman Merril. “You treat fighters differently than you would a heavy,” he said.
“With C-130’s, the pilots usually do a lot of the preflight checks, but with the F-16, we are responsible for the preflight on the ground.”
Prior to the completion of their training at Aviano, the Airman had a total of six launches of the F-16 a piece before wrapping up the course.
“It’s a different type of experience launching the F-16,” said Sergeant Shipp. Part of the reason for volunteering was to have the experience to work on a different plane. I feel lucky to have had the experience to do it and I would do it again.”
Having an opportunity to volunteer to work on something different and exciting was the motivation expressed by each one of these Airmen.
“The more you volunteer the more opportunity you may have to do something new and different,” added Airman Merril.
The F-16 launch training will require the Airman to be recertified once every year, but when General Foglesong leaves the mission will be over.