October 10, 2008 (by SrA Tong Duong) - Equivalent to 125 days spent strapped into a seat of an F-16 Fighting Falcon is the flying of 3,000 hours -- a milestone one pilot surpassed at Luke on September 22nd.
Lt. Col. Tony Barrell, 56th FW Range Management Office air range operations chief, at the Barry M. Goldwater Range, has completed more than 3,000 flying hours in the F-16. [USAF photo by MSgt. William Gomez]
Lt. Col. Tony Barrell, 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office air range operations chief has been chipping away for more than 20 years of flying to achieve that feat.
If you were to have asked him three years ago if he thought he'd make the 3,000 hour mark he would have said "no way."
"While looking through my log book one day, it occurred to me that I only had 40 hours left, so I started working toward it," Colonel Barrell said. "Up until that point, I didn't think I'd make it."
He attributes most of his 3,000 hours to a previous assignment delivering planes to foreign countries.
"One of my most rewarding jobs was working at Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Company in Fort Worth, Texas, where F-16s are made," he said. "We'd pick up a brand new jet at the factory and make a seven hour flight to Greece
to deliver the planes. It was a great experience because I got to see different cultures, fighter pilots from other air forces and how they operated."
Colonel Barrell started his Air Force career wrenching on the F-4 Phantom II as a maintainer for four years before being commissioned.
"I wanted to do something to serve my country, so I decided to join when Ronald Reagan was president and was doing a good job with the military," Colonel Barrell said. "As a maintainer working on the F-4, I used to watch pilots take off and land. I thought it would be cool to fly them."
With more than 25 years of active-duty service, Colonel Barrell has made sacrifices to continue flying.
"Just the fact that I have been persistent about my flying is a milestone," he said. "Instead of going off to do staff tours, which would increase my chance for promotion, I stuck with flying assignments because it's what I enjoy doing."
In Colonel Barrell's career, his various assignments have given him the opportunity to fly most of the F-16 blocks available.
"I've flown block 15s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s," he said. "Not many pilots can say they have flown the various types."
With less than 150 pilots who have surpassed the 3,000 hour mark, the opportunity will become increasingly harder for future pilots.
"It's getting more rare for pilots to fly 3,000 hours in the active-duty community," Colonel Barrel said. "Because of other demands and unmanned drones taking pilots out of the cockpit, it's difficult to get more than two or three operations tours in a career. I hope others can reach that milestone; it's notable and worth mentioning."
The colonel plans to continue flying after retiring from the Air Force in December. "I've had my heart set on flying," Colonel Barrell said. "That's why I spent more than 20 years in the Air Force."