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Happy Hooligans, 1990 & 1991

January 09, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Happy Hooligans, 1990–1991

After years of flying the F–4D ‘Phantom’ the North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG) would be trading up to the F–16A ‘Falcon’. I was pretty excited as the F–16 was (and still is) my favorite aircraft. The F–16 first saw service in 1979 and was designed by one of the greatest military minds of all time Col. John Boyd (USAF). The F–16A is a gorgeous aircraft and maybe the best fighter bomber ever built.

My friend, Bob Nelson, must have been more excited than me. He was at the airport in April of 1990 photographing the last flights of the F–4D and first flights of the F–16A. Bob also photographed the unit’s C–130 ‘Hercules’, which by 1991 was flying support missions within the US for Operation Desert Storm.

Bob was back in July of 1990, when training was in full swing. He got photos of the squadron doing touch-and-goes. And even a T–38A ‘Talon’ trainer got in the act. We got together on Tuesday July 17, 1990 at Giovannis Pizza for lunch. Bob was telling me about photographing F–16 at the end of the runaway. This is how I arrived at the date on these photos. I was so jealous.

Finally on Good Friday, March 29th, 1991, Bob took pity on me and called me up. From my journal..

Bob and I race northwest of NDSU. A plane ‘cloaks’ behind the residency halls. I exclaim it’s a B–1B. Bob didn’t believe me as I’ve been ID’ing Cessnas as F–15 ‘Eagles’ so when it ‘de-cloaks’ (coming from behind the hall) there it is - a B–1B ‘Lancer’ bomber. I give Bob crap for missing it. We could have been there 15 minutes ago. We wait in the car. (It is sunny, but the wind is cold.) Using Bob’s scanner, the Hector control tower would announce F–16 on approach. We can hear it coming but can’t see it until it’s on final approach. The landing light obscures its dark outline in the bright blue sky. It’s almost on top of us when we see it. We hustle out of the car to photograph the ‘Falcons’ as they fly overhead; then race to the north end of the runaway before they taxi back to the hangers. That was it.

1991 0229.14a1Any Friday with an F-16 is a Good FridayThis NDANG F-16A 'Falcon' [82-0967] taxis around the north end of Fargo Hector field. March 29th, 1991.


See the full Gallery or the Gallery Slideshow for more photos from the air show: 76 total including detailed photo/airplane descriptions.

Bob Nelson’s photos (Black & White with a 1184, 1200–1206 prefix; Color with a CN51–53 prefix) are copyright ©1990/1991/2015/2018. I believe Bob’s color photos (CN51–53) are from this trip but I can’t be sure. He also photographed a T–38 ‘Dragonfly’ tandem trainer.
My color photos have a date prefix and are ©1991, 2015, 2018.


North Dakota Air National Guard 1947–1997: Happy Hooligan’s a tradition of excellence

  • September 1989, The Happy Hooligans (NDANG 178th Fighter Squadron) exceeded 50,000 hours of accident-free flying in the F–4D ‘Phantom’.
  • January 1990, ND Governor George Sinner flew with the Happy Hooligans in a an F–4D piloted by Lt. Col. James Reimers.
  • February 1990, NDANG’s new Air Force Advisor, Lt. Col. Ed. Morrow, flew the first F–16, #699, from Hill AFB, Utah, to Fargo. The NDANG planned to have all twenty of the new ADF (Air Defense Fighter) F–16’s in Fargo by June 1, 1990. They plan to have all pilots F–16 qualified by Aug. 15.
  • February 1990, McDonnell Douglas F–4 program manager David Klevhorn presented the 119th FIG with the aviation excellence award for achieving 50,000 accident-free flight hours in flying the unit’s F–4 aircraft. The award covers a span of time from 1977, when the NDANG received its first F–4, through August 1989.
  • April 1, 1990, The NDANG ended its alert on when it started its conversion to the F–16 aircraft. The unit was the first of five ANG units to be affected by the shut down.. Since the beginning of the Northern Tier Alert, North Dakota had two pilots, two weapons systems officers and two F–4D jets on alert status duty, 24-hours-a-day. The alert also required additional maintenance and security police personnel.
  • April 1990, The last Hooligan F–4 raced down the runway at Hector Field . The majority of the F–4’s were retired to Davis-Monthan AFB. (The ‘Boneyard’)
  • September 8, 1990, Family Day and an F–16 Activation Ceremony were celebrated. General Dynamics and Pratt-Whitney (manufacturers of the aircraft and engines), sent representatives to Fargo to formally present the aircraft and other memorabilia to the Happy Hooligans. Unfortunately, Bob and I never heard about it and did not attend.


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