Last Stand of the Baja Scorpions

One of the last flying F-117s, 410th FLTS #85-0831 makes an approach to its home field of Palmdale, CA 5/7/08
Photo: Jim Mumaw

5/16/08 - In an ironic twist of fate, the last flying combat ready F-117 Stealth Fighters in the US Air Force have been retired, while a few of the F-117s that spent years testing the latest new systems to be used in those same combat aircraft, are still flying.

On April 21, the last four combat wing F-117s were flown from Holloman Air Force Base, NM to Air Force Plant #42, Palmdale, CA. The flight of four included: Col. Jack "Ripper" Forsythe, 49th Fighter Wing Operations Group Commander in #82-0800 wearing 8th FS Commander's markings, Lt. Col. Todd "Meat" Flesch in #84-0809 wearing 9th FS Commander's markings, Lt. Col. Ken "Tot" Tatum in #84-0824 wearing 49th Ops Group Commander's markings and Lt. Col. Mark "Drink" Drinkard in #88-0843 wearing the special 'flag bottom' scheme. Once they arrived at Palmdale, the aircraft and pilots participated in a retirement ceremony for the F-117, thrown by Lockheed. They departed the next day for the last short flight to Tonopah, which is where the aircraft will most likely be stored for good. Fans at "the spot" watched intently as the last examples of what is arguably one of the most historic aircraft in aviation history, soared into the clear desert skies for the last time.

F-117s #84-0811 and #85-0831 with the 410th FLTS make an approach to Palmdale, CA 5/7/08
Photo: Jim Mumaw

But wait! That may have been the official "last flight" as far as the Air Force is concerned, but it's not the last chance to see a 'roach' still flying. A small number of F-117s shared by Lockheed and the 410th Flight Test Squadron haven't been sent to the desert just yet. Apparently, sometimes government bureaucracy is a good thing... It's been reported that due to contractual agreements by Lockheed, some testing on the F-117 is still required into late 2008, even though the aircraft has officially been retired. As of April 08, the 410th FLTS still had F-117 #784, #811, #831 and #841 assigned to it and Lockheed.

It seems the pilots in the test unit have decided to make the best of the time they have left with the aircraft, as there have been numerous flights coming out of Palmdale in the month of May. During the week of the 5th in particular, #811 and #831 were spotted numerous times while making approaches together at Palmdale, Edwards and even NAS Lemoore. Both aircraft now wear a special logo on their sides, no doubt commemorating the last days of the 'Stealth'.

So as they say, it's not over til it's over.

ŠThe North Spin

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