September 16, 2008 (by SSgt. Stephen Razo) - As a young Air Force brat, Lt. Col. John Wynne dreamed of one day being an officer just like his dad.
Lt. Col. John Wynne, 301st FS instructor pilot, smiles after completing his 4,000th flying hour in the F-16. Colonel Wynne is the 24th F-16 pilot to achieve that flying feat. [USAF photo by Maj. Gerry Brown]
"I really just wanted to follow my father's footsteps by being an Air Force officer first, a pilot second," he said. "When I got my first taste of flying as a cadet at the Air Force Academy, I knew it was for me."
During a training mission Sept. 12 here, Colonel Wynne, an instructor pilot with the 301st Fighter Squadron, became the 24th F-16 pilot to surpass the 4,000-hour milestone -- placing him among the most elite F-16 pilots in the world.
Considering most fighter missions last less than 1.5 hours, logging 4,000 hours in the same type of fighter aircraft is quite an accomplishment. It is more common that pilots change the type of aircraft they fly and, in some cases, take on non-flying assignments.
"I love flying because there's always a challenge to overcome, be it the weather, or new weapons or tactics that need to be mastered, or helping a student pilot wingman to grasp a new concept," Colonel Wynne said.
The colonel was actually modest when asked about the significance of achieving the 4,000 hour milestone.
"Over the history of thousands of pilots who have flown the F-16, it feels good to be in a select group, but it really doesn't mean I'm any better than any of the other outstanding Instructor Pilots here at Luke," he said.
Good timing has contributed to his ability to enjoy longevity in the F-16, he said. Colonel Wynne was able to avoid an "ALFA" tour which means a tour of duty with the Army or having to fly a trainer aircraft at an undergraduate pilot training base somewhere. And his good timing got him in on the ground floor of the Air Force's Total Force Integration.
"The 56th Fighter Wing was one of the first units to integrate Reservists into its flying operation in 2000, so when I left active duty and joined the 944th Fighter Wing, I got the opportunity to continue flying F-16s for another eight years," Colonel Wynne said.
Of the 24 pilots that have reached the 4,000 hour mark, five are from the Luke AFB
family. Col. Lance Undhjem
, 944th FW (2003); Col. William B. Binger
, 944th FW (2005); Lt.Col. Bilal Yalin
, 56th FW (2005); Lt. Col. Gerald Paulus
, 944th FW (2007); and Lt. Col. John Wynne
, 944th FW (2008).
Having logged 14 years as an instructor pilot at Luke, Colonel Wynne insists that "burn out" is not possible because, "there's always something new or unexpected that happens on almost every sortie." On his Sept. 12 flight, something new did happen and there were many there to share in his accomplishment.
"It was overwhelming to see so many folks on the flightline to welcome me back from my 4,000 hour sortie -- sure is nice to have awesome friends and family," he said.