07/24/05 — Korean pilots view new fighter for first time at Seymour Johnson AFB

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Korean pilots view new fighter for first time at Seymour Johnson AFB

By Turner Walston
Published in News on July 24, 2005 2:00 AM

South Korean pilots who have been training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base got their first look at the new fighter jet they will be flying when an F-15K touched down at the base Friday afternoon.

The aircraft, similar to the F-15E Strike Eagle based at Seymour Johnson, is expected to become a mainstay of the Republic of South Korea's air force. The airmen will become instructors when they return to the own country, guiding a new generation of South Korean pilots.

The South Koreans' reaction to viewing the new jet for the first time was enthusiastic.

"I'm eager to fly right now," said Maj. Chang Bae Yoon as the pilots examined the plane. The pilots have become familiar with the jet through use of a simulator but having the real thing to touch was a thrill, they said.

"Very impressive," said Maj. Joo Il Kim.

"It's brand new. I can't wait," said Capt. Kil Soo Song.

The F-15K was flown into Seymour Johnson by Mark Snider, a test pilot with Boeing. He described the F-15K as having more power than the Strike Eagles, comparable to the latter's most recent versions.

"It'll have a little longer range because the motors are a little more efficient," Snider said. "It can go higher with a full combat load because the motors are stronger."

The airmen and their families were honored at a graduation banquet Saturday night at the officer's club. They will receive further training at the Boeing facilities in St. Louis before returning to South Korea.

They said they are proud to be on the cutting edge of their country's air power but humbled by the responsibility.

All said they were saddened by leaving Goldsboro but eager to get on with the next step of training. Friends and barbecue were at the top of the list of things they said they will miss most.

Wonmoon Lee, the 12-year-old son of Maj. Young Soo Lee, said he is proud of his father and the job he does. He said he will miss his friends at Greenwood Middle School and the Mexican food at Goldsboro restaurants.

"I want to stay here forever," he said.