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Commentary | June 23, 2010

The end of an era: F-15 Eagles at Langley, 1976-2010

By Capt. Lee Stewart 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

Did you ever think the day would come when an Eagle would not be the most familiar sight in the Langley sky? Sadly, in the months to come, the very sight of an Eagle soaring across the Langley sky will soon become an uncommon phenomenon. Moreover, after a 34-year proud heritage, it is time for "the changing the guard" at Langley Air Force Base.

The mighty F-15 Eagle will step aside and allow the "new kid on the block," the F-22 Raptor, to don the crown and set in motion a storyline that will someday solidify its own place in history.

The ending of an era began June 21 as the last squadron of F-15 eagles readied themselves for inactivation. The first two F-15 eagles, brandishing serial numbers 82-0024 and 83-0026, departed for their new home at Nellis AFB, Nev. These are two of four F-15s the 71st Fighter Squadron will transfer to the 433d Weapons Squadron at Nellis.

The remaining F-15s assigned to Langley will begin leaving over the next three months for new homes with the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, the 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., and the 159th Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station New Orleans, La. The last aircraft should go "wheels up" mid-September, closing the final chapter in the 1st Fighter Wing's F-15 history book.

The Eagle will truly be missed as part of the aircraft inventory here at Langley. In its maturity, the F-15 represented assurance and certainty for the 1 FW. When called, you could guarantee we would be there raring to go, ready to get the job done. Consequently, due to its venerable performance, the Eagle recently earned the joking nickname, "an aircraft without a mission." It became the sixth man warming the bench, or the pinch hitter waiting in the dugout for a call that never came.

This absence gave maintainers and operators the opportunity to fine tune their skills both in the air and on the ground, posturing a team that was always ready. The skills of operators, maintainers and a touch of technology heightened by the quick recovery of the F-15 is what made this aircraft the most formidable air superiority fighter to date, and that is why this aircraft will be highly missed by all who have flown and or maintained it until the F-22 Raptor reaches full maturation.