GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR BASE, Bulgaria— --
While supporting NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission, 31st Fighter Wing Airmen gave 35 students from First English Language School in Sofia, Bulgaria, a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon tour at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Oct. 2, 2020. During the event, Aviano Airmen taught students about what it’s like to serve as a pilot and maintain the F-16s.
The experience provided the students an opportunity to practice their English language skills and learn about what opportunities they could have, as the Bulgarian air force will begin flying F-16s in the future.
“We have been able to do so much here,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Alexander Lodge, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot. “Being able to fly and support NATO enhanced Air Policing, and also being able to share what we do with the young men and women who could be Bulgaria’s next F-16 pilots is incredible.”
During their visit, the students had the chance to walk around an F-16 and learn about the different parts of the aircraft from the maintainers. They were also able to sit inside the aircraft and learn about the flight controls from 555th FS pilots.
In addition to the students in attendance, there were also Bulgarian maintenance personnel who were giving tours of their L-39 and MiG-29 Aircraft.
“It is cool to see the kids out here taking an interest, and do a show and tell with some of the Bulgarian air force maintenance professionals, as well,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Rygiel, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “Being here at Graf Ignativo is a perfect opportunity to see what an operational mission looks like.”