Over a three-day period in March, Test pilot Lt. Col. Beau Wilkins flew an F-16 from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to Shaw AFB, S.C., then drove a rental car over 400 miles to Dannelly Field, Ala., to pick up another F-16 from the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing, and piloted it back to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex in Utah. The long trip was part of the 514th Flight Test Squadron’s so-called “taxi service” to deliver aircraft to and from Ogden without exposing aircrews to the new coronavirus, according to a release.
When an aircraft is maintained or modified at Ogden, a pilot from the tail’s owning base usually flies it to Hill Air Force Base and back. After the pilot drops off the aircraft—and then again when it’s time to pick it up—they usually fly commercial.
Between mid-March and May 1, Airmen from the Reserve squadron flew 53 sorties, transported 10 aircraft to Ogden for depot work, and flew 13 aircraft back to their home bases, the release stated.
“Our unit’s mission of performing flight test flights on A-10, F-16, F-22, F-35, and C-130 aircraft is critical to ensuring the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group’s depot timeline stays on track,” Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Nathan Litz said in the release. “With many units concerned about exposing their combat aircrew [to COVID-19] due to travel, our ability to pick up and drop off aircraft also enables their missions by decreasing their exposure.”