In April 1990, the 10th TFS “Fighting Tenth” deployed to Zaragoza Air Base (AB), Spain, for a scheduled Weapons Training Deployment (WTD); and I sat in the cockpit jump seat of a C-141 on the way down to join the squadron – stopping along the way at Aviano AB in northern Italy and Decimomannu AB at the southern end of the Island of Sardinia, Italy, prior to arriving at Zaragoza AB, Spain.
As the Wing ECO I was attached to the 10th TFS “Fighting Tenth” for flying purposes, and they honored me by painting my name on the canopy rail of F-16D tail number 331 – shown in this picture.
On this heavyweight range sortie to Bardenas Reales Range, I asked our crew chief to pose for his picture on the side of the cockpit where the crew chief names are painted on the canopy rail.
My crew chief took this picture of me before climbing into the jet, and offered to take more from the ground once I was strapped into the back seat.
Once I was all strapped into the D-model, my crew chief kept the camera and took the following series of pre-launch photos of our range sortie to Bardenas Reales Range.
Zaragoza AB, Spain, was the perfect flying environment away from the dark, overcast skies back in Germany – here we could fly low level routes to Bardenas Reales Range on one sortie and then turn to an air-to-air training sortie on the next go.
The best aspect of Bardenas Reales Range was the ability to fly a low level route to a first run attack (FRA) at the range – everything we used to do in an F-4E/G in the 480th TFS at Spangdahlem AB – but this time in an F-16D.
Another crew chief helped launch our jet, while the original crew chief continued taking pictures while we were waiting for lead to check us in to taxi.
I cropped this picture to show more detail of the two seat F-16D model, otherwise known as the “family model” – like a 1960’s station wagon with a fold away third seat in back.
Cropping this picture again shows the beautiful lines of the F-16D’s aerodynamic cockpit design – and it feels like you’re sitting on the very tip of a spear while in flight.
You can see the other crew chief on the far side of our jet buttoning everything up and checking that the jet is ready for taxiing to the arming area, prior to our Bardenas Reales Range sortie.
The F-16D was very different from the F-4E/G I used to fly – the “Phantom II” rumbled, rattled, vibrated, dripped hydraulic fluid and had a poor air-conditioner in the air or on the ground – while the F-16D “Fighting Falcon” whispered and hummed with knowing efficiency while we were sitting in air-conditioned comfort on the ramp.
Our jet on the ramp at Zaragoza AB, Spain, on a perfect flying day with a heavyweight delivery first run attack (FRA) range slot reserved for us at Bardenas Reales Range – what could be better than that?
This cropped photo shows more detail while we waited to taxi, and with most F-4E’s heading to the boneyard for storage or conversion into drones at the time – I was back flying jets again to Bardenas Reales Range.
Our flight lead was parked beside us on the ramp and was busy completing his checklists prior to checking us in to taxi – just another day at the office for a fighter pilot.
Our flight lead wears the famous Hahn AB, Germany, 50th TFW “Pizza Patch” on his right shoulder – showing all three Hahn AB F-16 squadrons: 10th TFS, 313th TFS and 496th TFS.
The following pictures were from an air-to-air training sortie during our Zaragoza AB WTD, and I carried the camera with me in the F-16D cockpit – and this picture shows the foward visibilty from the back seat while sitting on the ramp with the canopy up.
With the canopy down I took this self-portrait while sitting on the ramp – and the photo turned out really well with just the right sun angle and exposure.
I’m not sure why the exposure on this series of self-portraits didn’t turn out as well, perhaps we were sitting in the arming area and the sun angle had changed – which makes all the difference in the world of photography.
As a photographer I was always interested in cockpit photos, and the professionals do it by mounting a camera on the glare shield above the instrument panel – for me it was pure hit or miss – but this picture captured a perfect reflection of the ramp in my visor.
The hardest part of taking a self-portrait is lining up the camera to center the photograph, but the cockpit and ramp reflection in my visor turned out great – you can even see my hands holding the camera in my visor.
Photography is hard to get right as an amateur, but I had another nice cockpit reflection in my visor in this photo as well.
A sunny and hazy view of the Zaragoza AB ramp showing the forward visibility in an F-16D from the back seat with the canopy down – the sun angle must have been in front of the jet on this picture.
A view through the side of the canopy, looking down the row of parking slots at three more 10th TFS “Fighting Tenth” F-16’s sitting on the ramp at Zaragoza AB, Spain.
Another side view looking across the ramp at the next row of “Fighting Tenth” F-16’s – it’s always great to deploy on a WTD and generate maximum training sorties in perfect flying weather.
Looking down the row of F-16’s towards the Zaragoza AB tower, it looks like we’re ready to launch on an air-to-air training sortie – the hazy visibility on the ramp was often the result of the typically windy conditions in Spain filling the air with dust.
Flying out of Zaragoza AB, Spain, was a great opportunity for the squadron to fly maximum sorties, in what is perfect flying weather for either air-to-air or air-to-ground training sorties.
This view of our wingman from below shows just how difficult it is to see a gray F-16 against a hazy blue sky background even at close range – let alone at any significant range.
Flying in the F-16D was a great opportunity to fly with the best pilots and technology that was available at the time; but the true highlight of my career was to have flown the F-4D/E/G “Phantom II” – that paved the way for the more advanced F-16 to follow.
While at Zaragoza AB with the 10th TFS “Fighting Tenth” at a squadron function at the O’Club, I accidentally cut the tendon of my left index finger clear through to the bone – on the overhead wrought iron hanging chandelier (a long story…) – and needed emergency tendon repair surgery at the downtown Zaragoza city hospital.
Here I am with David back home in Monzelfeld, Germany – with my hand and arm bandaged after my successful tendon repair surgery; and fortunately it healed well.