Test pilot Phil Oestricher was conducting high-speed taxi tests, the YF-16 lifted off the runway, and rather than risking damage to the aircraft, he elected to lift off and go around to come in for a normal landing.

The first flight of the General Dynamics YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) on Jan. 20, 1974.

Phil Oestricher was the test pilot.

YF-16 Flight Zero: Test Pilot Phil Oestricher Recalls the First, Unintentional Flight of the YF-16
Phil Oestricher aboard the YF-16

As Oestricher explains in the video featured in this post, he was conducting high-speed taxi tests, the aircraft lifted off the runway, and rather than risking damage to the aircraft, Oestricher elected to lift off and go around to come in for a normal landing.

The first “official” flight was made on Feb. 2.

A quick look at the YF-16 test program and at the USAF decision to buy the lightweight fighter
The first flight of YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards AFB on Jan. 20, 1974. Phil Oestricher was the test pilot. This well-known image was pulled from the 16mm film of the flight.

John G. Williams, a structural flight test engineer on the YF-16, recalls in the article What A Wonderful Airplane: YF-16 First Flight (Flight 0) by Joe Stout appeared on www.codeonemagazine.com: “During the first high-speed taxi test, a violent lateral oscillation had set in as a direct result of pilot-commanded oscillations (several maximum left/right commands) as the airplane reached rotation speed (~120 kt). Remember, this was the first airplane to have a fixed stick, and there was no opportunity for Phil to gain any feel for the airplane, until that high-speed taxi test. As the nose of the aircraft rose, the tailplane inadvertently scraped on the runway. The left wingtip missile and the right tail static probe also lightly contacted the runway. Phil chose to take off because the bird had begun to veer off to the left side of the runway, and he was faced with plowing through the desert or flying. Thankfully he chose to fly and possibly saved the entire program. After take off, Phil regained control and stayed up for six minutes, and landed uneventfully. Prior to the next flight, the stick sensitivity was reduced by 50% with gear down. Later, after complaints of not enough sensitivity, it was returned to the original.”

On Jan. 13, 1975 at Edwards AFB, Secretary of the Air Force John L. McLucas announced that the YF-16 had won the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition over the Northrop YF-17 for full scale development as the USAF’s next Air Combat Fighter.

F-16CJ Print
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The LWF program sought a small, lightweight, low cost, air superiority day fighter designed for high performance and ease of maintenance. The LWF was initiated because many in the fighter community believed that aircraft like the F-15 Eagle were too large and expensive for many combat roles.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon achieved combat-ready status in Oct. 1980. Since then many foreign nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Turkey, Egypt and Israel, have purchased the F-16.

Thanks to the H/T from out friend Earl Belz

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Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force