Meet the 'Dark Falcon'!
On the 23th of April, 2018 the Belgian Air Force unveiled the beautiful paint scheme of its newest F-16 solo display aircraft. The fighter jet was given the name ‘Dark Falcon’ and together with its pilot, senior captain Stephan ‘Vador’ Darte, they will serve as real ambassadors for Belgium for the next three airshow seasons.
Senior captain Stefan ‘Vador’ Darte is a highly trained and experienced fighter pilot at the Belgian Air Force with nearly 3,000 flying hours. He has been flying the F-16 fighter jet for some 20 years and is currently a fighter weapons instructor. Vador, named after ‘Darth Vader’ from the Star Wars movies, is also a very talented aviation and air-to-air photographer who loves using his camera while being in a 90 degrees vertical dive or climb. His photos has been published in numerous magazines and are very popular on Instagram and Facebook. After being appointed for the next F-16 solo display pilot by the Belgian Air Force, Vador formed a team of specialists to prepare the upcoming airshow season. The team itselfs consists of one displaypilot, fourteen technicians including an airframe specialist, an engine specialist and a crew chief and a webmaster. One of the first tasks of the pilot and his team was the creation of a completely new livery for the solo display aircraft. The designers, Nicolas Deboeck and Johan Wolfs, were inspired by the official name of the F-16 fighter jet, ‘Fighting Falcon’, and the callsign of the pilot, ‘Vador’. So the aircraft was to be called ‘Dark Falcon’. For the spectacular livery of the Dark Falcon, only black, white and gray shades were used. The painting of the aircraft, serial FA-101, was performed by the team of the paint shop of the Florennes Air Base. It took them seven weeks to paint the aircraft and get it ready for its roll-out on April 23th, 2018. To highlight the cooperation and partnership between the Belgian Air Force and other contries, one of the horizontal tails of the Dark Falcon gets the colors of the flag of the country where the airshow takes place.
Belgium has a longstanding tradition of solo display teams. The purpose of these demo teams is to show the airmanship and skills of the Belgian military pilots and the characteristics and manoeuvrability of the display aircraft. These demo teams also have the task to recruit young people for the Belgian Air Force and to improve public support. During his first airshow season Vador showed his skills at airshows in the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, France, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic and Belgium.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens
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