November 9, 2011 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - Out of all of the F-22 Raptor pilots in the Air Force there is only who has been presented with the 1,000 flying hour patch.
Jeff Babione, vice president and program manager for Lockheed-Martin's F-22 Raptor program, presents Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd FS commander, with a plaque and patch to commemorate his 1,000 flight hour in the F-22 Raptor. Piffarerio is the first pilot to reach this milestone during a sortie on November 4th, 2011. [USAF photo by Capt. Ashley Conner]
Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander, was presented with Lockheed-Martin's first Raptor 1,000 hour patch by Jeff Babione, vice president and F-22 program manager during a ceremony here Nov. 7.
"This milestone demonstrates a level of proficiency in the pilot community that is mirrored in the maturation of the F-22 Raptor fleet, which reached 100,000 operational flight hours this year," said Babione. "The pilots and the platform continue to evolve together -- increasing the jet's lethality and ensuring the Raptor is unbeatable."
The ceremony was attended by members of Lockheed-Martin's F-22 program team and active duty and Reserve pilots. To Piffarerio, the success of the F-22 mission is due in large part to the work of the maintainers, who were also in attendance.
"The most important part of the ceremony was recognizing the achievements and accomplishments of our maintainers," said Piffarerio. "We have the best rates and statistics in the combat Air Force entirely due to the active duty and Reserve professionals working on the flight line. None of this would have been possible without the phenomenal contributions of our entire maintenance team."
Although Piffarerio said that his 1,000 hour flight was a team effort, the ceremony did give him perspective on the job he does every day.
"(During the ceremony) we got the chance to recognize that what we do up here is very special," he said. "Working with an active duty wing and getting the opportunity to integrate with some of the best pilots and maintainers on both the active duty and Reserve side is what makes us so unique and, quite frankly, so good at what we do. This reminded me that there is no place like flying in Alaska and no place that I would rather be."
Piffarerio's routine sortie Nov. 4 turned extraordinary when on that flight he surpassed 1000 flying hours. Col. Dirk Smith, 3rd Wing commander, flew with him that day and echoed similar appreciation for the work of the maintainers that aided in the development of the F-22 as a weapons system.
"It was an honor and a privilege to be flying with Piff when he eclipsed the 1000 hour mark," said Smith. "The most rewarding moments, however, were first, when I departed the chocks with a salute to the crew chief, an Airman First Class, and later to return the jet back into the capable hands of that same dedicated crew chief, knowing that he will strive to make his jet the best in the fleet."