Venom 19-01 provides operations, maintenance personnel unique experience

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Amidst the low temperatures and high operations tempo of the 311th Fighter Squadron’s exercise Venom 19-01, many operations and maintenance personnel are provided the opportunity to view their work from the skies in a familiarization flight.

“It’s good payback to show people the mission they are supporting, because without them we couldn’t fly our missions every day,” said Capt. Danielle Park, 311th FS instructor pilot. “They get to see what a mission is like from stepping out the door, getting in the jet, flying and the pilot explains what is going on.”

Chosen based on their merit, time in service and previous FAM flight experience, 19 operations and maintenance personnel have taken to the skies in the backseat of an F-16 Viper between April 23 and 29, 2019.

For Airman 1st Class Mequail Fridge, 311th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, the chance to fly in an F-16 was one he could not pass up.

“It was awesome,” said Fridge. “I was afraid at first, but I would for sure want to do it again.”

While the enjoyment of the passenger is priority, pilots providing FAM flights also try to make the experience educational.

“They hop in the back seat and ride along on a normal mission and get a lot more information and insight into what we do every day,” said Park.

While maintenance personnel have the opportunity to watch their aircraft take off and land each day, the experience of flying in one provides a more well-rounded view of their impact on the mission and their level of responsibility.

“You get more appreciation for what the pilots do, it gives you an incentive to work harder,” said Fridge.

In addition to the educational experience of a FAM flight, some fliers are inspired to alter their long-term goals after the experience.

“I’ve given quite a few familiarization flights and they are rewarding because you get to fly an individual that has never been in an F-16,” said Park. “Sometimes we inspire individuals to want to be a pilot, flying is that spark. I’ve seen a few individuals who try and pursue that after getting a FAM flight.”

Park said the goal is to fly eight FAM flyers per day for the duration of the temporary duty assignment. Venom 19-01 is scheduled to last until the end of this week, providing many more potentially life-changing experiences to deserving operations and maintenance personnel.