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In History: Wing's epic 24-ship flyover

The 419th Tactical Fighter Wing says goodbye to the F-105 Thunderchief at Hill Air Force Base June 4, 1984. The farewell was complete with a 24-ship flyover to commemorate the occasion. The event saluted an aircraft that played an important part in USAF history and focused on the continuing modernization of the Air Force Reserve. (File photo)

The 419th Tactical Fighter Wing says goodbye to the F-105 Thunderchief at Hill Air Force Base June 4, 1984. The farewell was complete with a 24-ship flyover to commemorate the occasion. The event saluted an aircraft that played an important part in USAF history and focused on the continuing modernization of the Air Force Reserve. (File photo)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- On June 4, 1983, the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing, as it was then known, hosted a farewell tribute to the F-105 Thunderchief. The highlight of the day was a perfect 24-ship formation flyover at Hill AFB.

The rare operation produced a memorable formation befitting a proud heritage, as by then the 419th had flown the “Thud” for more than a decade. It was a duty day for reservists and an “open house” for dependents and other visitors, drawing an estimated 7,000 people.

This event saluted an aircraft that played an important part in U.S. Air Force history and focused on the continuing modernization of the Air Force Reserve.

Retired Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness – former F-105G pilot, Medal of Honor recipient, and prisoner of war in North Vietnam for six years – completed his 93rd combat mission. Maj. Gen. Leo Marquez, Ogden ALC commander, and Brig. Gen. Stanton R. Musser, Ogden ALC vice commander, flew in two of the other two-seaters launched. These distinguished visitors joined Brig. Gen. James A. Wahleitner, Tenth Air Force commander, and Brig. Gen. Roger Scheer, Deputy to the Chief of Air Force Reserve, as guests of the wing that day.

After the flyover, six of the Thuds air-refueled and flew to Kelly AFB, Texas, where they were retired. This marked the beginning of the end of the weapon system, as just four months later the wing received its first F-16, a Block 10 “A” model, serial number 78-0070A. The 419th flew the F-16 Fighting Falcon for more than 30 years, before transitioning again to the F-35A Lightning II.

The 419th was the first-ever Air Force Reserve unit to fly both the operational F-16 and F-35, and the last to fly the F-105.