Aviation enthusiasts can look forward to observing F-16 fighter jets take off from a covered observation area at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) in approximately one month.

CAE Executive Director Mike Gula said an observation area would soon be available for the public to see the operations of the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) and watch them fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from the airport. 

"We are going to have an observation area that's going to be right by the cell phone lot," said Gula. "We're about a month out from having a covered area where people can come out and enjoy it and watch the flights take off."

Viewers can watch the fighter jet operations from the cell phone lot until the observation area is entirely constructed.

The possibility of a community engagement day for the public or providing a schedule detailing times of the takeoff and landings of the F-16 fighter jets is unlikely. U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Ferrario, 169th Operations Group, said that is primarily due to security concerns.

"I wish that we could announce our schedule; we know a lot of people would really enjoy that," said Ferrario. "For operational reasons, we can't publish our daily schedule."

Flights will take place one weekend per month during their normal drill weekend. Most flights will occur in the mornings and afternoons, although operations could adjust due to training schedule changes or weather.

The SCANG 169th Fighter Wing began full operations from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in May. Ferrario said CAE is temporarily housing 25 fighter jets and around 200 airmen. 

Their F-16 Fighting Falcon jets typically operate out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base but have temporarily moved to CAE while McEntire resurfaces its main F-16 runway. Ferrario said the 6-month project is going well, and McEntire's new runway is about one-third of the way finished.

Residents located in surrounding communities near the airport can be assured that noise from the fighter jets will be minimized as much as possible. In addition, CAE commercial flights will not be affected during the mission, and all flights will operate as regularly scheduled, according to Gula.

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