The last two F-15Cs from RAF Lakenheath’s 493rd Fighter Squadron flew through the famous Mach Loop for the last time. And they did it in style.
On Apr. 21, 2022, the last two F-15Cs of the 493d FS “Grim Reapers” carried out a final flight in the Mach Loop. These jets are due to leave Lakenheath next week to return back to United States. From there the newest airframes will remain in service with National Guard squadrons, while the others will probably end up in Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The Squadron has already received its first F-35A, the flagship aircraft that arrived in the UK along with the 495th FS’s commander aircraft, but before closing the F-15 chapter, the Grim Reapers made a last low level sortie through the LFA (Low Flying Area) 7, with two Eagles making four incredible low level passes that were caught on tape by our friend Ben Ramsay at UK Aviation Movies.
“They always were THE jets to catch low level. Many times I have been to the Mach Loop and have caught these wonderful jets and their super skilled pilots threading their jets through the Welsh Valleys. But today was a very special day,” Ben said describing the video he posted to YouTube.
The two aircraft, callsign REAPER 01 (#86-0172 – with 45 year in Europe special tail) and REAPER 02 (#86-0171) made an initial “medium” altitude pass before descending low level for multiple passes.
“As you can see in the video, the pilots made a lazy turn at 2-3000ft to begin their final farewell. It brought a tear to my eyes, and I’m not afraid to admit it.” After that, the two Eagles split into single ships and “in true Grim Reapers style” flew four passes each: “some of the best passes I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve been shooting these guys low level.”
The footage is great for several reasons: the maneuverability despite the three fuel tanks, the aggressive turns of REAPER 02, the stunning setting and the final climb.
According to Ben, after the Mach Loop “activity”, the two Eagles pulled out at Corris Corner and climbed to 14,000 ft to return back to Lakenheath one more time via the Lichfield Corridor. Interestingly, the lead aircraft was carrying the Welsh flag which was presented to one of the local low level photographers the following day.
“Thanks to the F-15 crew on the day for bringing these awesome jets to Wales, and to the maintainers to get them here. You made our day. It won’t be the same without you.”