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162nd pilots deliver remaining F-16s to Poland

Pilots from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing deliver the last three F-16 "Jastrzab," or Hawks as their called, to the Polish Air Force at Krzesiny Air Base, Poland, Dec. 11, 2008. These jets represent the last of 48 aircraft Poland purchased as part of the "Peace Sky" program. Poland continues to send F-16 student pilots to the 162nd at Tucson International Airport for training. (U.S. State Department photo)

Pilots from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing deliver the last three F-16 "Jastrzab," or Hawks as their called, to the Polish Air Force at Krzesiny Air Base, Poland, Dec. 11, 2008. These jets represent the last of 48 aircraft Poland purchased as part of the "Peace Sky" program. Poland continues to send F-16 student pilots to the 162nd at Tucson International Airport for training. (U.S. State Department photo)

KRZESINY AIR BASE, Poland -- In the early afternoon of Dec. 11, three Polish F-16C aircraft landed at Krzesiny Air Base near Poznan, breaking through the clouds on final approach. 

While F-16s are a common sight at Krzesiny, this was a very unique landing. The aircraft were the final three F-16s being delivered to Poland from the United States as part of the 48 aircraft, $3.6 billion Peace Sky Program. 

Although the program is far from completion, the delivery of the last three aircraft was an important milestone. 

The delivery mission was executed exactly as planned. 

According to Lt. Col. Dan Grimwood, one of the pilots, it initially looked like the aircraft would have to divert to Poland's other F-16 base, Lask. 

"The changing weather at Krzesiny was initially below the minimums for landing and we were preparing to divert to Lask," he said. 

When they were 25 miles out, the pilots received updated weather observation which met the minimums required to initiate an approach. Colonel Grimwood commented on the excellent runway lighting system at the base, which became visible 2 to 3 miles from the runway. 

The other two pilots were Maj. Jeff Orr and Maj. Dan Hodges. All three were experienced F-16 pilots in a wide variety of versions of the fighter. 

"The Polish version of the F-16 is a real pleasure to fly," said Grimwood. "The avionics are well designed and provide the pilot with enhanced situation awareness." 

He said the support for the arrival of the aircraft at Krzesiny was outstanding. The radar and tower controllers were very professional and provided excellent guidance before and after landing. The crew chiefs did an outstanding job of receiving the aircraft and the welcome they received from Polish leadership was warm and enthusiastic. 

"They were clearly excited to receive the last three of their 48 aircraft," he said.