New VISTA paint scheme gets artist's approval

  • Published
  • By Kenji Thuloweit
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

Renowned aviation artist Mike Machat officially endorsed his latest work for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School March 7 when he applied his signature to the school’s NF-16D VISTA in-flight simulator.

The VISTA is sporting a new paint scheme designed by Machat. The one-of-a-kind aircraft is a staple of the school. VISTA is an acronym that stands for Variable stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft. The modified F-16 can be configured to fly like almost any aircraft type.

“Over a year ago when VISTA was heading to the depot for structural life-extension work, we realized that VISTA would get stripped and would need to be re-painted,” said David Vanhoy, U.S.A.F. TPS technical director. “Evil Bill Gray, our chief test pilot, and I started thinking about how we wanted VISTA to look. We came up with a set of requirements and started soliciting ideas for a new paint scheme.  Being more engineers than artists, I thought it would be valuable to bring in an expert in the field of art, flight test and aircraft paint schemes.”

Vanhoy said “naturally” he reached out to the long-time friend of TPS, Machat. 

“He came out for a visit and while sitting at the table in Col. (Matthew) Higer’s office, who was the TPS commandant at that time, we fine-tuned the concepts and turned Mike loose to develop a paint scheme,” said Vanhoy. “Col. Higer said it would be truly amazing if Mike would be willing to come out and sign VISTA as his latest piece of art. If Mike was willing to do this, it would confirm that the paint shop got it right. So having Mike come out and sign VISTA was the final touch to a year-and-a-half effort to give VISTA a new paint scheme.”  

In past interviews, Machat said he’s honored to have produced nearly 30 Edwards-related artworks since 1978, including the “Golden Age of Flight Test” mural at the Air Force Flight Test Museum and the 50th Anniversary painting of the Bell X-1’s first supersonic flight.

Machat also completed the 70th Anniversary commemorative painting for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He’s contributed dozens of paintings to the U.S. Air Force Documentary Art Program and currently has eight paintings on display in the Pentagon. He’s also produced two paintings for NASA and has four paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.