Originally planned for July 1st, the 322 Tactical Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) Squadron would fly its farewell flight with the F-16 before transferring their aircraft to its sister squadron, 312 Squadron, at Volkel Airbase. After more than 42 years of service the squadron would say goodbye to their aircraft with a ceremony and fly-by. The first F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft arrived at Leeuwarden on June 7, 1979 when F-16B, with serial J-259, flown by Captain Wim Sneek touched down at the Frisian Airbase.
However Belgium F-16AM, with serial FA-130, caused a serious accident on the flight line, resulting in the ejection of the pilot and a crash of the aircraft into a building after a throttle problem. Due to the accident the official ceremony was cancelled. Luckily the crash only resulted in two relative minor injuries, as the consequences of the crash could have been much more severe.
As a consequence of the crash the decision was made to organize a more modest farewell for the following Monday morning. Luckily the Public Affairs team was willing again to host a small media event.
The participating aircraft for the farewell flight were parked on the flight line. After a video and photograph session for the Media team of the Armed Forces, the aircraft started up their engines.
For the farewell a number of aircraft received special markings. F-16AM with serial J-871 received a special dragon tail with the text "Last flight F-16 Leeuwarden 1979-2021" and on the ventral vin the badges of all three former units. Furthermore a number of aircraft received a full color unit badge and full color Frisian tail band. The aircraft with serial J-201 received the badge of the Tactical Conversion Unit, the aircraft with serial J-509 received the original 322 Polly Grey badge and the J-144 and J-628 received an original 323 Squadron badge of the goddess Diana.
All four aircraft taxied towards the famous spotter hill at the end of runway 23 to say goodbye to the loyal aircraft enthusiasts, after which the aircraft returned and taxied by the tower and many watching service men. After crossing the runway the aircraft taxied from the northside of the base towards runway 23 for their last take off.
One by one the aircraft took the sky. The aircraft left in style, fast, low and most of them with full afterburner!
For one last time the four aircraft flew over Leeuwarden and left for Volkel Airbase only leaving the memories of 42 years of history!
The F-16s in the RNLAF will continue to operate with 312 Squadron untill 2024.
Northern Skies Aviation would like to thank the PA team of Leeuwarden Airbase for the opportunity to witness this very special occasion!