Portland, Ore. Pilot conducts First Flight in EX for 142nd Wing

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steph Sawyer
  • 142nd Wing/Public Affairs

Five F-15C instructor pilots from the Oregon Air National Guard’s 123rd Fighter Squadron are conducting training in the F-15EX with instructors from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida for two weeks in March.

Training commenced last week with the first training flight flown by 123rd Fighter Squadron pilot, Lt. Col. Joel “Thermo” Thesing, on March 7th, marking a significant milestone for the 142nd Wing.

Thesing commented on the long road the wing has travelled to get to this point, which marks a huge step in laying the foundation for a successful conversion from the weathered F-15 C-model to the novel EX.

“The Wing’s ability to train its first group of pilots on the EX is the direct result of all the hard work that members across the wing have done to lobby for this aircraft, to plan it’s bed down and sustainment, and ultimately how to employ it,” said Thesing. “It’s an honor to be a part of that effort.”

While the new EX very closely resembles its C-model predecessor, beneath its exterior casing lies an entirely different, and much improved aircraft.

“My impression of the F- 15EX after flying it for the first time was that it is an awesome, awesome aircraft,” said Thesing. “The engines feel like they have a lot more power than the those in the C-model, and the radar and avionics are a generational improvement over the F-15C as well.”

Nevertheless, some features that are packaged into the EX will inevitably take some getting used to. For example, the EX is the first U.S. Air Force F-15 to boast fly-by-wire flight controls.

Fly-by-wire is a term used to describe the digital system which replaces the manual flight controls featured in the older model F-15s. Some of the advantages of a fly-by-wire system include reduced weight and enhanced aircraft maneuverability, but the system itself differs greatly from what C-model pilots are accustomed to.

While at Eglin, Thesing and his colleagues are taking a momentous stride in acclimating to the EX.

“The initial work will take a lot of studying and practice to get the basics of flying the aircraft down and learning it’s systems, and that process has a steep learning curve, and never really ends for as long as you’re a pilot,” said Thesing. “That being said, I look forward to when the focus can shift from how to fly the EX, to how to employ it tactically.”

The Air National Guard intends to provide the 142nd Wing with 18 total new EXs, with the first slated to arrive in Portland, Oregon this summer.