Foreword

On December 10, 1988, after 10 years at the 1st All Weather Fighter Wing, as is was called at that time, I walked through the H2 maintenance hangar's doors for the last time. The H2 was hosting a maintenance squadron called: F-16 Intervention.

During these 10 years, I served at Beauvechain Air Base, as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) , I was engine specialist on one of the most sophisticated fighter aircraft of that time: the Lockheed Martin F-16, that was called General Dynamics F-16 until 1993.

This period of my live, that I can hardly forget, was so rich on learning, as well professionally as well as humanly. In fact, what else could a 20-year-old non-commissioned officer dream of, when he starts his young career on an aircraft like that.

I have to say that in September 1979, when my fellow students and I move from the Belgian Air Force Technical Training School of Saffraanberg to the 1Wing, there are less than ten F-16 aircraft on base. Its first aircraft (FB01) was delivered on January 26, 1979. It was also the first F-16 coming from an European construction chain (SABCA). The next aircraft are delivered at a frequency of 1 or 2 per month.

 

Two squadrons operate at the 1st Fighter Wing: 350 Fighter Squadron is still "operational" on F-104G, from NATO's point of view, while 349 Fighter Squadron already said goodbye to the Starfighter and started the conversion to the F-16. On December 31, 1980, it would become the first Squadron being operational on this aircraft in Europe.

The key personnel, responsible for the reception and the maintenance of the first aircraft, is initially a group of 45 technicians, of which 4 are officers.  They were trained in the US during the second half of 1978.

In Beauvechain, the education of the technicians was done by an instructor team formed by 2 officers and 20 NCO’s, trained in the US during the first half year in 1978. After taking six months to write the training manuals, they started the conversion of the 1Wing technical personnel in January 1979.

 


 

 

All courses are performed by the instructors of the F-16 MTU. The unit is located outside the operational zone, in the “camp”, and is placed under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Goeminne

At the end of 1979, my fellow graduating students and I were part of the first French speaking class that received the conversion course on F-16 at 1Wing.
For our instructor, warrant Officer Jan Knaepen, it was his first course on the Pratt&Whitney F 100-PW-200 engine. A few weeks later, on the 4th of January 1980 we successfully pass our written and spoken tests. We duly receive our qualification as F-16 engine specialists.

A month later, I join the F-16 Line & Armament Squadron (L&A), more exactly the intervention hangar (H2). 

Then starts a period during which I will discover one by one the different aspects of the work as an aircraft engine technician.
The replacement of an engine component requires a functional test to insure it’s working properly. In some cases, an engine run is required, and that is performed by the technician himself.
That’s how I ran my first engine test one week after joining the squadron.
The senior technicians where there to enhance my self-confidence, to teach me the good reactions and the best ways to work on an aircraft. Some are uncompromising on the quality of the work done, on the way to us the tools and on the cleanliness of the tools and the work environment.

I will not only learn to replace one failing component but also to identify the one that causes the malfunction of the engine or one of its associated systems. That’s how I will step by step increase my experience and make my way in the squadron. I will have the opportunity to participate to many movements abroad, during operational exercises of both flying squadrons (349 and 350 SQN) or during repair on aircraft on ground on foreign bases for technical reasons. 

I will also have the opportunity to go more deeply into the study of the working and the different settings of the F 100 engine during a period of instruction of a few weeks at the base’s engine shop. My two colleagues and I can from then are qualified to perform full engine trimming whenever necessary. 

The experience I gathered brought me to perform a engine conversion course at Technical Training School (Saffraanberg) for the scholar year 1986-87.
From November 4 1986 until January 1987, I give the first engine conversion course to a class of engine technicians from Florennes Air Base. Afterwards these technicians will receive their practical instruction in Beauvechain before joining Florennes. Florennes will receive their first F-16 on November 14 1988.

I spend my last years in Beauvechains mainly working at the trim facility (Trimpad). The 1Wing is then fully operational and has a heavy flying program. The engines are pushed to the limit and sometimes, under certain flight conditions, suffer small functional issues. The most frequent issue being the afterburner extinction when airspeed goes below critical speed. That’s called a A/B blow-out (After-Burner blow out). A full engine trim is then required to adapt the engine performance.

But the years go by and priorities in live change with the age…. At the end of 1988, at the age of 29, I decide to leave the one that taught me so much and to join a civilian airline, which I will work till my retirement in May 2015.

Thirty years passed by and I feel that the moment has come to a review the past.
I propose that you share with me, during the few chapters that follow, the various moments I have been able to fix on film.
I will start with the enrolling in the Belgian Air Force, via the selection examination at “Petit Château” in 1978, then comes the essential part, live in squadron from February 1980 until I left December 31 1988.

I wish you again a pleasant visit.

Next : Joining AF     

   

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