Colonel Goldfein nammed last F-117A Bandit

Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, and Major Patrick Adams, 7th Fighter Squadron, check the F-117's pass bottle before flight on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The pass bottle is used to start the F- 117's auxiliary power unit. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, and Major Patrick Adams, 7th Fighter Squadron, check the F-117's pass bottle before flight on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The pass bottle is used to start the F- 117's auxiliary power unit. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, prepares before flight on F-117 on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This will be Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117 since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter.

Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, prepares before flight on F-117 on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This will be Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117 since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter.

Airman 1st Class Juan Rios, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, loads a global positioning system onto the F-117A that will be flown by Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This will be Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117A since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

Airman 1st Class Juan Rios, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, loads a global positioning system onto the F-117A that will be flown by Colonel David Goldfein, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This will be Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117A since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

Colonel David Goldfein, commander, 49th Fighter Wing, removes equipment after a successful flight on the F-117A on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This was Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117 since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

Colonel David Goldfein, commander, 49th Fighter Wing, removes equipment after a successful flight on the F-117A on September 14, 2006, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This was Col. Goldfein's first flight of the F-117 since assuming command at Holloman. US Air Force photo by Airman Jamal Sutter

HOLLOMAN AFB, N.M. -- The commander of the 49th Fighter Wing, Col. David Goldfein, is the last of an honored breed. 

When Colonel Goldfein flew his first F-117A Sept. 14, he became the last Bandit. 

The Bandit nickname harkens back to when the Stealth Fighter Program in Tonopah, Nev., was classified, said Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th Fighter Squadron commander. The Formal Training Unit, now known as the 7 FS, was the 417th Fighter Squadron "Bandits." Using this nickname, Stealth pilots could talk about being Bandits without association to the classified program. 

All Bandits are given a number upon their first flight. 

"The first operational Bandit was Col. (ret.) Al Whitley," said Mr. Rick Shea, 49 FW, historian. "He is Bandit number 150." 

The first 149 Bandits were test pilots for the aircraft, Mr. Shea said. 

Colonel Goldfein will be number 708, the last Bandit, said Colonel Knehans. 

The wing commander will also be a graduate of the final class for the FTU. The class will graduate Oct. 13. 

"The FTU's mission is to produce qualified pilots to offset PCS (permanent change of station) attrition and sustain combat capabilities," Colonel Knehans said. "We teach transition and re-qualification courses instead of a basic course, as all our trainees are experienced fighter pilots." 

The course includes 85 hours of classroom academics on aircraft systems, weapons, combat navigation and survival egress. It also includes 24 simulator sessions, two T-38 flights and 11 F-117A flights, which emphasize instruments, formation and visual flight rules, traffic pattern flying, aerial refueling and basic surface attack, he said. Graduates of the course are weapons-qualified aircraft commanders. 

The FTU is deactivating because its mission is complete, said Colonel Knehans. There are enough qualified and experienced F-117A pilots to do the mission until the retirement of the F-117A. 

The last transition class will graduate five pilots, Colonel Goldfein, Lt. Col. Peter York, 49 FW, Maj. Robert Noonan, 7 FS, Capt. Nathan Keethler, 7 FS, and Capt. Michael Harmon, 7 FS. In addition, Col. David Moore, 49 FW vice commander, is re-qualifying. 

The inactivation of the 7 FS is in December. The 8th Fighter Squadron will take over the wing's T-38A program for flight evaluations, to chase specific F-117A upgrades and other various missions. 

The 7 FS does have the opportunity to be reactivated at the discretion of Air Force Headquarters.