Falcon Rejoin 50


Story and photos by Jacob Green

50th Birthdays are a very special celebration, and this one was no different. A perfectly sunny day in late January was the setting of the 50th birthday celebration for the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Falcon Rejoin 50 or also called Viper 50 included many different variants of the F16, including performances from the U.S.A.F Thunderbirds and the F16 Viper Demo Team.


Driving up to the main gate of Iconic Edwards Air Force Base reminds you of how much test and evaluation has taken place here. So many different iconic air platforms and aviators have been put through the test and taken to their limits to make the Unites States one of the most feared militaries in the world.


Walking to the flight and static lines, camera in hand, I didn’t know where to start. Over 30 different F16 aircraft sitting silent in the slight desert breeze with their different colored tails and varying letters waiting for their photo to be taken. On static display was the F-16XL, the first F-16B, and the X-62A VISTA. Further down the line were various jets from Weapons school Vipers, Luke AFB Vipers, to Fallon Aggressor Jets. Even though each jet on the outside looked relatively the same, you could tell each performed a different mission depending on the model, squadron, and the day.

The first flight of the YF-16 was at Edwards AFB on January 20th, 1974 and was an unintentional takeoff piloted by test pilot Phil Oestricher. Oestricher was attempting to conduct a high speed taxi test when the YF-16 lifted off the runway. Not wanting to risk the damage to the aircraft, Oestricher decided to go around and come in for landing. The first “official” flight was made later on February 2nd, 1974.


Off to the right an aviation photographers favorite sound emerged, jets spooling up. The Thunderbirds were getting warmed up for their morning training flight. The Thunderbirds were at Edwards AFB for their Winter Training. Ground Crews were checking the jets as all the pilots were doing preflight checks inside the cockpits in synchrony. After a few minutes the jets were warmed up and the parade of 6 Thunderbirds saluted their crew and taxied to the active runway. As the Thunderbirds dazzled the growing crowd with their performance, other bystanders were looking at the abundance of Vipers parked around and talking to pilots, ground crews, and special guests.


The day continued with a look around the static area at all the F-16 Fighting Falcons while guest speakers who have contributed to the developmental test of the F-16 and also those who have flown the aircraft in combat took the stage to talk about their experience and the history of the F-16 to the crowd. The F-16 demo team from Shaw AFB took to the sky in the afternoon and performed their demo for the Residents and Employees of Edwards. To end the event was another Thunderbird show.

Driving away from the event I was glad to have experienced this special occasion with fellow aviation enthusiasts. To see the different F-16 variants in one location and learn more of the history of this iconic platform and the pilots who flew them created a unique celebration. Falcon Rejoin 50 was a success and we look forward to the next chapter of the F-16, no matter how many more years that may be.

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