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Flight test unit closes its doors.

After more than seven years, the 420th Flight Test Flight, which operated out of the Williams-Gateway Airport in Mesa Ariz., will close its doors for good Oct 31.

The Unit supported the T-38C avionics upgrade program by flying depot-level test sorties and acceptance check flights after the cockpit upgrades were completed. In addition, pilots would pick up aircraft and bring them to Mesa for upgrade at a Boeing facility and then deliver them after the work was complete.

"The avionics modification involved a total overhaul of all the flight, engine and navigational instruments, and the complete rewiring of all components forward of the rear cockpit," said Lt. Col. Tom Saxon, 420th FLTF commander. "The work took about 800 man-hours and six weeks to complete. The overall training platforms were improved by the addition of a heads-up display, intertial navigation system, and flight recorder and debrief system."

The update is expected to extend the life of each Talon about 20 years.

Members of the unit validated the modifications, valued at $450 million, on 468 aircraft.

"This process involved approximately 1,000 flight test missions, 2,400 delivery sorties and the oversight of 375,000 maintenance man-hours in our contractor oversight program," Colonel Saxson said. "We have accomplished this mission ahead of schedule every month for the past seven years, under our budget and without a mishap."

The unit was originally stood up in May 2000 and organized as the 622nd Regional Support Group, Operating Location E. After the 413th Flight Test Group was created at Robins Air Force Base, GA., the unit was renamed and activated under the group in August 2001.

Since the unit was formed to support work done under a fixed contract, every one knew that someday the end would come.

"As the unit deactivates, we have found jobs for those who desire them," Colonel Saxon said. "some have joined the individual mobilization augmentee forces, some moved to other units within the flight test group, and some are retiring after 20-plus years of service."(staff Sgt. Celena Wilson)
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Title Annotation:Round the Reserve
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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