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PICTURES: Start-up developing four-seat variant of F-16A

Some of you may have fathomed that this F-16A story was a Flightglobal April Fools' Day prank. Those with a sharp eye might have been suspicious about the founder of the Fun Falcon company Barry Billaker, and its likeness to the famous F-16 engineer Harry Hillaker. For those who haven't seen it yet, it is still worth a read. Who knows? Maybe this idea isn't too far away!

A Tuscon, Arizona-based start-up is developing a four-seat variant of the venerable Lockheed Martin F-16A using ex-US Air Force stocks parked in permanent storage at Davis-Monthan AFB.

The Fun Falcon company, founded by retired aerospace engineer Barry Billaker, intends to offer the demilitarised and heavily redesigned fighter for joy rides and private transport.

The concept targets the same wealthy clientele once courted by the Bede BD-10 and ATG Javelin projects, which failed during development.

How the new F-16A will look

Unlike these attempts, Billaker notes, the Fun Falcon relies on a proven and already popular airframe. Although the design changes appear substantial, Billaker describes them as only "minor tweaks".

The canopy and cockpit is modified to accomodate four passengers seated two-abreast in two rows. This striking change to the outer mould-line incorporates both longitudinal and lateral plugs, Billaker says.

F-16A general arrangement

Billaker describes the effect as evoking the tandem-seat Sukhoi Su-34 and the curvalinear design shaping pioneered by the Northrop Tacit Blue experimental aircraft. The latter allows the Fun Falcon improved aerodynamic performance, Billaker says, resulting in no detectable drag penalty compared to the original F-16A.

Fun Falcon has acquired the first F-16A from the Davis-Monthan "boneyard", and modifications have already begun, Billaker says.

Retired F-16s to choose from

US export clearance was cleared on grounds that sales of the demilitarised Fun Falcon would be applied to fund several needed upgrades of operational F-16s, he adds.

Billaker refuses to identify his investors specifically, but notes they are a diverse group representing very wealthy individuals in the US, Europe and China.

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