April 1, 2011 (by A1C David Owsianka) - A pilot at Luke Air Force Base reached a feat March 24 that only two other F-16 pilots have accomplished throughout their careers. Col. Robert McCutchen Jr., 56th Fighter Wing special assistant to commander, reached his 5,000th F-16 flying hour.
Col. Robert McCutchen Jr., 56th FW special assistant to the commander, reached his 5,000th F-16 flying hour on March 24th, 2011. This feat has only been accomplished by two other F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots in the Air Force. [Courtesy photo]
Reaching such a milestone didn't come easy. In fact, it takes an average of eight hours from mission preparation through post-mission grade sheet completion to take the F-16 to the skies for a 75-minute sortie. Some missions, depending on complexity, can take more.
However, Col. Robert McCutchen Jr.
didn't have to reach to find that commitment - as a youngster, it dwelled within him. When he was a boy, he spent time around airplanes and watched them fly - after all, his father was a fighter pilot who flew in the Korean War and Vietnam War.
Inspired by his father, Colonel McCutchen began his training in the first Euro-NATO
Joint Jet Pilot Training class at Sheppard AFB
, Texas, in 1982 flying T-37 and T-38 aircraft. After he completed his training, he went to MacDill AFB, Fla., to train in the F-16.
"I remember my first flight at MacDill," Colonel McCutchen said. "Like any other pilot who flew the F-16 for the first time, I was amazed with the aircraft and felt behind in the jet. After completing the training, I went on nine consecutive F-16 assignments."
One of his assignments landed him at the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School. Graduating, he said, played a significant part in his long career, which opened doors for assignments and presented opportunities he might not have had otherwise.
His most recent move, 14 years ago, led him through the gates of Luke. For nearly a decade and a half, Colonel McCutcheon has been associated with the 56th Fighter Wing and the 944th Fighter Wing as an associate instructor, where he's shared his vast knowledge of the F-16 with hundreds of young pilots."The reason why we put that much time into flying the aircraft is because we demand excellence in our flying," Colonel McCutchen said. "We extract every possible learning point from each flight. We want to be efficient with the fuel in terms of teaching and learning, leading to higher proficiency in how to employ the airplane.
"Being a pilot is not a profession that allows mediocrity," he said. "We must do it with passion and strive toward excellence."
Looking back, Colonel McCutcheon realizes his story is special.
"Most of my compadres, who I trained with in the F-16, were branched during their careers into other aircraft or nonflying duties," he said. "I am fortunate and blessed to have been able to fly the F-16 for 28 years."