Captain Zoe M. Kotnik is the first female Commander and Pilot of the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo)
An Air Force pilot with the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team was killed in an April 4 crash after he lost consciousness while performing an aerial maneuver, the investigation into the incident determined.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon bears an unusual distinctions: it is one of the only top jet fighters in the world to also be cost efficient. Fast and extremely agile, the light fighter does have some shortcomings in range and payload compared to larger twin-engine fighters like the F-15 Eagle, but that was easy to forgive due to costing less than half as much—around $18 million in 1999 ($27 million in 2017 dollars). This favorable bang-for-buck ratio has not been lost on air forces across the world—the F-16 currently remains the most popular aircraft in modern military service: out of 4,500 produced, nearly 2,700 currently remain in service in around twenty-six countries. Needless to say, the cutting-edge fourth-generation fighter of the 1980s will remain with us for a good while longer.