May 12, 2008 (by A1C Nora Anton) - The 18th Aggressor Squadron's first pilot to reach a career hallmark flew his 2,000th hour in the F-16 on May 7.
Maj. Gene Cassingham, 18th AS F-16 pilot, is assisted by a member of the ground crew on May 7th, 2008 after the flight in which he reached his 2,000 hour mark. He is the first 18th AS pilot since the activation of the 18th AS to reach this career hallmark. Major Cassingham is now one of five pilots on Eielson AFB with a flying time of 2,000 hours or more in the F-16, most of those pilots are lieutenant colonels or higher in rank. There are 541 total pilots in the Air Force who have reached the same milestone. [USAF photo by MSgt. Jill Victor]
"Two-thousand hours in the F-16 was an important goal for me," said Maj. Gene Cassingham. "I've been blessed to stay in the cockpit since 1995."
Major Cassingham is now the fifth pilot on Eielson Air Force Base with a flying time of 2,000 or more in the F-16, most of them being lieutenant colonels or higher rank. There are 541 total pilots in the Air Force who have reached this same milestone.
Major Cassingham has been flying the F-16 since 1997; he has flown as a combat pilot at Hill AFB
, Utah, instructor pilot at Kunsan AB and Osan AB, and a flight training instructor at Luke AFB, Ariz., participated in countless large force employment exercises, and has deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Southern Watch enforcing the No Fly zone.
"Now that I'm an Aggressor I am humbled by the talent and dedication of my fellow Aggressors," he said. "I truly enjoy learning and studying about a threat to such a detailed level and then teaching the Combat Air Forces about that threat's capabilities."
He said his inspiration to fly came from his personal hero: his father.
"My dad was a fighter pilot also," he said. "He flew in Vietnam and had a career that spanned 24 years, he had more than 6,000 hours and more than 1,000 hours of that being combat time."
His advice to young captains and majors is to define what is important to them.
"Captains and majors need to weigh their choices early, find out what is important to them and then drive down that road," he said. "For me it was flying, I've tried to stay in the cockpit and have been extremely fortunate with the assignments I've earned."