COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — One of the first F-16 fighter jets to ever take flight is temporarily on display inside Falcon Stadium, as part of this weekend’s outdoor hockey game at the United States Air Force Academy.
The Thunderbird paint job makes it appear as if it were part of the famous USAF demonstration squad.
That’s not the case, but it does carry its own impressive resume, and also serves a similar purpose.
According to fact sheet released to KRDO by the USAFA this week, the aircraft was the first Fighting Falcons ever built.
Officially labeled 75-0745 by the military, it was the first full scale development F-16, produced by General Dynamics in Fort Worth in 1976.
After flying for several years, it became a recruiting tool in 1982.
The frame was modified so that it could be packed into a semi truck and transported throughout the country.
Nearly 40 years later, it still serves the same role, but with an updated Thunderbird paint job added a few years ago.
It arrived at the south end of Falcon Stadium on February 10, where it will remain on display through the weekend as a stunning visual representation of air prowess for the thousands who watch the game in person and the many more who will watch the live broadcast across the country.
Squeezing through the tunnel in the local stadium, however, wasn’t easy.
Even with it’s foldable wings and nose, a photo posted on NHL.com showed an extremely narrow gap between the the jet’s canopy and the ceiling of the tunnel.
USAFA Chief of Media Relations Meade Warthen confirmed that no other disassembly was necessary to squeeze through, but suggested they would have figured out an alternative method if it had not.
“No special modification were made to make it fit. However, based on the importance of brand exposure for Air Force Recruiting Service, we would have found a way to get it in the stadium and be a part of the live broadcast,” he said in a statement.
The game at Falcon Stadium between the Colorado Avalanche and LA Kings begins at 5:30pm on Saturday.
Gates open at 4:00pm.
Fans who can’t attend can watch is live on NBC.
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