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Virginia Air Guard F-22 pilot soars past 1,000 hours

February 13, 2014 (by Capt. Craig Carper) - Lt. Col. Michael Schaner made Air National Guard history recently when he flew an Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft mission over the skies of Virginia.

Lt. Col. Michael Schaner, Virginia ANG (192nd FW) F-22 pilot, shuts down his jet after completing 1,000 flight hours at Joint Base Langley-Eustis on December 7th, 2013. Schaner is the first ANG aviator and one of only three in the military to fly 1,000 hours in an F-22. [ANG photo by MSgt. Carlos J. Claudio]

During that sortie, Schaner earned the distinction of becoming the first Air National Guard pilot to fly more than 1,000 hours in the cockpit of the stealth fighter.

Schaner began his career with the Air Force, where he served until 2009. Rather than discontinuing his military service, he transferred to the Virginia Air National Guard so he could continue to exercise his passion for aviation. Schaner's love of flying came at an early age.

"I knew I wanted to fly since I was 3, it made my life a little easier and certainly more focused," said Schaner.

It was his fifth grade teacher who recommended he look at the Air Force to pursue his goal. He followed that advice and over the years turned his lifelong ambition into reality. After graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Schaner joined the Air Force in 1999, attended Air Force pilot training and served as an Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft pilot prior to transitioning to the F-22.

He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Operations for the 149th Fighter Squadron here where he oversees training requirements for the squadron's pilots, ensuring they are trained and ready to deploy when needed. In this role Schaner works closely with the 192nd Fighter Wing's Total Force partner, the 1st Fighter Wing.

As a graduate of the Air Force's Weapons Instructor Course, Schander brings invaluable experience to F-22 community and continues to perform Instructor and Evaluator pilot duties for the Langley Total Force.

"[Schander] is the 'go-to' guy for the F-22," said Col. William Butz, the 192nd Operations Group commander. "He is the resident expert here at Langley on systems, tactics and the conduit to our robust relationship with active duty."

Schaner's success in bringing the Guard and active Air Force together comes from his depth of experience and understanding of both Air Force components. His active duty experience as an F-15C and F-22A fighter pilot and F-22A Test and Evaluation pilot coupled with his time and accomplishments in the Guard provide a unique and extremely valuable skill set that clearly displays the synergies and strengths of the total force partnership between the ANG and the active Air Force.

The Virginia ANG's 192rd FW moved to then Langley Air Force Base in 2007 under the Air Force's Total Force Integration program. In the Langley association, Virginia Air National Guardsman and their active duty partners serve side-by-side to meet the F-22's air dominance mission requirements. The TFI program at Langley serves as the benchmark in the Air Force on how things should be done, and the work of airmen like Schaner clearly demonstrate the strength of the total force concept.

"The teaming relationship between these two groups has never been stronger," said Butz. "This is the absolute right way to meet mission requirements and maximize resources."

The total force partnership between the 1st and 192d FWs extends throughout the F-22 operation at Langley, touching all aspects of maintenance and operations.

According to Schaner, the team concept of active duty and the Air Guard is "why we are so successful here at Langley."

"Our behind the scenes guys from the flight line to back shops get the job done," said Schaner. "They ensure the jets speed, stealth, and maneuverability is ready to meet mission requirements."

Countless hours go into maintaining this fifth generation fighter jet, and the total force maintenance effort is what keeps the F-22 mission ready.

"We could not do what we do in the air without the maintainers and support staff doing the awesome job they do each and every day on the ground," said Schaner. "Surpassing 1k hours in the cockpit of the Raptor was no easy feat. 'Stick' time in the F-22 is in high demand. With a limited number of F-22's in the fleet, we all strive to get in the air and sharpen our skills as much as we can."

"I am fortunate to work with the professionals I do here at Langley," said Schaner. "The Raptor is the premier jet in the Air Force and achieving this personal milestone is truly a testament to the aircraft and the people that support it."

Courtesy of 192nd FW Public Affairs

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Additional images:

Lt. Col. Michael Schaner, Virginia ANG (192nd FW) F-22 pilot, receives a special plaque at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, December 7th, 2013. Schaner is the first ANG aviator and one of only three in the military to fly 1,000 hours in an F-22. [ANG photo by MSgt. Carlos J. Claudio]