July 9, 2014 (by A1C Dustin Mullen) - A 43rd Fighter Squadron instructor pilot reached 1,000 flying hours in an F-22 Raptor July 9, becoming only the fifth person in Air Force history to achieve this milestone.
Major Daniel "Magic" Lee, 43rd FS instructor pilot, stands in front of the F-22 Raptor, which he reached his 1,000th hour of flight time in, on July 8, 2014. He is currently only the fifth person in Air Force history to achieve this milestone. [USAF photo by A1C Dustin Mullen]
Major Daniel "Magic" Lee has spent the last nine years flying the F-22 and logged 776 total flights in the aircraft.
"This is a big deal for me and a historic moment for Tyndall," said Lee.
Lee is the first pilot to achieve this while at Tyndall, which is home to the largest fleet of F-22s in the world.
"It's an amazing machine," Lee said. "It's rather overwhelming the first 10 times you fly it, but it's pretty remarkable just how fast the human mind can adapt. At this point, it's just as natural to walk out the front door and get in the car as it is for me to take the F-22 and go 1,200 mph or swing around at 9.5 Gs."
Lee enlisted in the Air Force in 1991, right out of high school as a computer programmer.
He then went on to pursue his education, which led him to join the U.S. Air Force Academy. He graduated with the class of 1998.
In 2000, Lee came to Tyndall to attend class to become an F-15 Eagle pilot.
He spent three years piloting the F-15 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. Then, after completing his tours at Joint Base Langley-Eustis Air Force Base, Va., Lee transferred to Tyndall to become a pilot in the F-22.
Once qualified in the F-22, he became an instructor. Lee has taught more than 500 students how to fly the Air Force's most advanced operational aircraft.
His wife, Rebecca Lee, the couple's 9-year-old daughter, Cate, and 10-year-old son, Ben were in attendance with handmade signs in tow for support during this milestone.
"They have been putting up with all the sacrifices over these last nine years, between the moves, the late nights and the long days," said Lee. "Now, they get to see what dad does at work all day."
His wife said she still gets a little nervous, especially on night sorties. That worry will continue as Lee will go on to log his 1,001st hour roughly three nights from now.