Farewell flight for F-16s in Burlington

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Saturday was a bittersweet day for members of the Vermont Air Guard. At 1:58 p.m., the 158th Fighter Wing F-16 jets left Burlington for the last time.

"Lot of emotions, lot of feelings right now," said Col. David Smith, the commander of the 158th Fighter Wing.

Hundreds of people on the Air Guard base and around the region had their eyes to the sky Saturday afternoon to get a last look at the F-16s that patrolled our region for the last three decades.

"Primarily, I am really proud right now," Smith said, moments after the F-16s took flight.

He said one of his primary emotions is appreciation for the men and women in the Guard.

"To see them all, they were just so excited. There were tears, there were high-fives," Smith said.

The jets were a part of history, not just for their decades in the Green Mountain State, but for the whole country.

"From the Cold War to right here where we are today, it's been outstanding," Smith said.

Saturday marked an end of an era for the planes in Vermont.

"To think that they are not going to be here tomorrow, it's definitely mixed emotions," said Lt. Col Nate Graber, a pilot who had his last flight on the F-16's two months ago.

Graber says with the F-16s' departure, a reality-- a new normal sets in.

"Of course, mixed emotions. I got my son with me. It's a tough day I guess, but it's all about the future at this point, too," Graber said.

The controversial F-35s are expected to arrive in Vermont fall of 2019. Air Guard officials say they will be ready.

"We have work to do now these airplanes are gone and the F-35s will be showing up in September, so we will continue through the summer and continue to get ready," Smith said.