F-16 fighter jets land in Bethel

photo by Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing diverted to the Bethel Airport when one of the aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency.

The F-16s were on their way to Eielson Air Force Base after participating in an exercise in the Indo-Pacific theater. Reports said they came from Guam, an 8-hour flight.

Both pilots were doing fine and landed safely at the divert location. The planes parked near the National Guard Hangar.

It was approximately 9 p.m., last Tuesday, September 22nd when folks in Bethel started hearing the jets flying overhead. They were very loud.

Posts about the jets blew up on social media. Some people went up to the airport to check it out, taking photos. There was a long line of trucks and cars on Tower Road with folks wanting to get a glimpse of the F-16s. Folks socialized and chatted, kids played.

One of the jets landed first. The other kept flying in a holding pattern before landing. The pilots deplaned via ladder and could be seen covering their engines.

The insignia on the planes’ tail ends clearly spelled out “AK” dispelling any rumors that they were from Russia. There was also the unmistakable American flag.

It was an exciting event for the folks in Bethel.

“We’re very thankful to the Bethel community for all the support they’re providing to our two F-16 pilots, especially from the local law enforcement and airport teams,” said Col. David Berkland, 354th FW commander. “As usual, our Alaska communities have our back and help us accomplish our mission every day.”

Security and maintenance teams are being dispatched to Bethel to assist in recovering the Eielson-based aircraft.

I agree, what a treat. It is not every day that we get to see an F-16 right in our midst.