56th Fighter Wing meets FY06 flying hour goal

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The 56th Fighter Wing ended fiscal 2006 Wednesday by flying 47,383 flying hours in 12 months. 

With more than 34,941 sorties flown for fiscal 2006, Luke accomplished its mission of training the world's greatest F-16 pilots and maintainers, while deploying mission-ready warfighters. 

"It's a total team effort to meet our flying hour goals in the Air Force's largest fighter wing and we did it again this year," said Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, 56th FW commander. "Everybody contributes to the success of our mission, and this is a crowning achievement to showcase our year-long excellence in training the world's greatest fighter pilots." 

The milestone, in particular, is near and dear to members of the 56th Operations Support Squadron's Current 56th Fighter Wing meets FY06 flying hour goal  Operations Flight. Current operations is the vital link between Air Education and Training Command, Luke's fighter squadrons, the 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron and the aircraft maintenance units. 

Each year, AETC allocates flying hours to Luke based on the number of aircraft on the ramp and the number of F-16 pilot graduates required for Combat Air Forces. 

"We divide the hours allocated by AETC to each fighter squadron based on current aircraft inventory and the total number of student graduates forecasted each year," said Tech. Sgt. Flint Whitesell, 56th OSS Current Operations superintendent. "Holidays, family and safety days, historical attrition numbers and several other factors are taken into account when determining how many sorties the wing can expect to fly each month. Squadrons use this information to determine the appropriate number of sorties to meet their monthly goals. Once the fighter squadrons and maintenance units agree upon a plan, they sign a contract to achieve the goal." 

According to Sergeant Whitesell, over the course of the year, current operations pays close attention to each squadron's progress and compares numbers between operations and maintenance to ensure zero discrepancies. Current operations provides weekly reports to base leadership and monthly reports to higher headquarters at the end of each month. Careful planning and monitoring are necessary to ensure Luke graduates pilots on time within the flying hourconstraints set forth by AETC. 

"As the year draws to a close we update the numbers daily and report our status to higher headquarters," said Senior Airman Corey Little, 56th OSS Current Operations NCO in charge of scheduling. "Flying hours may be traded amongst the squadrons in order to accomplish the wing goal of flying the exact number of hours we've been assigned. It's a team effort. Each day we rely on information from the fighter squadrons and maintenance units, as well as a detailed analysis from the 56th MOS." 

These combined efforts produced another year of perfect results - 47,383 hours assigned for fiscal 2006, 47,383 hours flown. 

Of note, the numbers above include 7,013 hours flown by pilots from the 425th and 21st Fighter Squadrons, which are funded from separate accounts due to their unique mission of producing mission-ready pilots for the Republic of Singapore and Taiwan, respectively. 

As an added bonus, Luke flew more than 700 orientation sorties in 2006. This "once-in-a-lifetime" experience provided the lucky few a chance to fly in the back seat of an F-16D. Fifty-sixth Fighter Wing quarterly and annual award winners, distinguished visitors from Phoenix and around the United States, and visiting USAFA/ROTC cadets were just a few of the groups allowed to see Luke's fighter operations first-hand. Additionally, more than 100 visiting instructor pilots from other AETC bases received sorties as part of AETC's instructor enrichment program. 

Finally, maintenance and operations personnel conducted numerous flightline tours and static displays and pilots provided more than 100 spouse taxi rides to military family members.