March 24, 2015 (by SSgt. Luke Olson) - Col. Gregory Lair, 114th Operations Group commander and Lt. Col Eric Knutson, 114th Fighter Wing chief of safety, reached a milestone by netting 3,000 career flight hours during a training sortie at Joe Foss Field, March 11, 2015.
Col. Gregory Lair, 114th OG commander and Lt. Col Eric Knutson, 114th FW chief of safety, reached a milestone by netting 3,000 career flight hours during a training sortie on March 11th, 2015. The pilots join an elite group of pilots that have reached 3,000 flying hours in the F-16 to date. [ANG photo by SMSgt. Nancy Ausland]
Upon landing, the pilots were greeted by family, colleagues, and friends to congratulate their accomplishment. They were 'hosed down' in traditional fashion by the 114th firefighters who also gave them a spray salute from the fire trucks.
The pilots join an elite group of over 260 military pilots that have reached 3,000 flying hours in the F-16 Fighting Falcon to date. They also join Lt. Col. Todd Sheridan, 175th Fighter Squadron commander, as current members of the unit to achieve this notable feat.
Lair noted this milestone reflects the vast amount of experience and expertise that the unit has gained maintaining and employing the F-16. He and Knutson were among the first lieutenants to fly the jet when the 114th converted to it in 1992.
"My first flight in the F-16 was in February 1992 and I am very fortunate to still be serving in uniform and flying this great machine," said Lair. "I would not have been able to reach this milestone without the tremendous effort of the maintenance folks who generated all those sorties and my family who supported me during many deployments, early morning take-offs, late landings, and delayed returns home."
Lair has more than 262 combat hours flying 71 missions in support of Operation Provide Comfort II, Southern & Northern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Noble Eagle.
Knutson has more than 135 combat hours flying 36 missions in support of Operation Provide Comfort II, Southern & Northern Watch, Coronet Nighthawk, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Noble Eagle.
Each pilot expressed gratitude and appreciation to the support of their family and friends throughout all the deployments and service.
"I am especially thankful for the truly outstanding maintenance group in the 114th FW," said Knutson. "They've been the catalysts in producing all 3,000 of those hours by allowing us to fly safely through their hard work and efforts. I'm proud to fly the mission and reach 3,000 hours with an outstanding pilot and good friend in Col. Lair.".