November 4, 2011 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander, flew his 1,000 flight hour in the F-22 Raptor on November 4th, making him the first Air Force pilot to do so.
Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd FS commander, climbs into an F-22 prior to take-off on November 4th, 2011. This flight marks Piffarerio's 1,000 flight hour in the F-22, making him the first Air Force pilot to reach this milestone. [USAF photo by Capt. Ashley Conner]
"This is a great milestone for the pilots, maintainers and contractors working on the jet and the F-22 program as a whole," said Piffarerio. "The aircraft is maturing and getting better the more we fly and perform maintenance on it."
Staff Sgt. Hank Robinson, 525th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief launched Piffarerio on his sortie today but was focused on ensuring it was a safe flight.
"It is neat to know that I was a part of launching a 1,000 hour flight," Robinson said. "Whether it is a 1,000 hour flight or a routine sortie I am focused on the job I have to do."
Upon landing Piffarerio was met by his wife Jennifer along with active duty and Reserve pilots and maintainers to include the 3rd Wing commander, Col. Dirk Smith who received a check ride from Piffarerio during the milestone flight.
Piffarerio was a part of the initial cadre who stood up the 477th Fighter Group in 2007, of which the 302nd FS
Prior to being assigned to the only Reserve unit in Alaska, Piffarerio served 13 years on active duty in a variety of F-15E and F-22 assignments. After being selected in 2002 as initial cadre to test the F-22 during follow-on evaluations, he served as program manager and F-22 test director at Nellis AFB
Although the four month stand-down of the F-22 fleet earlier this year did delay the 1,000 hour flight Piffarerio is unfazed.
"More important to me than this milestone is that the F-22 fleet is safely in the air and accomplishing the mission," he said. "Air Combat Command's plan to resume flight operations was done in a deliberate and methodical manner with the safety of the pilots in mind."
When Piffarerio looks back on his time in the F-22 an event that stands out the most was when initial operating capability was declared in December 2005. He credits the decision to declare IOC to the work of the pilots, maintainers, flight test engineers and analysts leading up to the decision.
"There were significant hurdles that we had to overcome but the Edwards and Nellis team pulled it together to deliver a combat ready jet to the Combatant Commanders," said Piffarerio. "I was proud to have been a part of that team."