August 23, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Capt. Erik Pettyjohn was selected by Lockheed Martin to receive the 1998 Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award for his heroic actions in operation Northern Watch.
During a suppression of enemy air defense mission over northern Iraq, Pettyjohn's aircraft experienced a catastrophic engine failure. After expertly flying his crippled aircraft for more than 120 miles over enemy territory, he executed a flawless flameout landing without the aid of arresting gear.
The landing site, a short-runway civilian airport, was located in mountainous terrain at an altitude of over 5,000 feet.
The Semper Viper Award pays tribute to pilots demonstrating airmanship skills noteworthy of its namesake, the late Joe Bill Dryden. The award program began in 1996. A selection panel from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company evaluates candidates who carry on Joe Bill's tradition of excellence in airmanship and system knowledge.