August 8, 2021 (by 2nd Lt. Kaitlyn Lawton) - Lt. Col. Ryan Pelkola, 302d Fighter Squadron director of operations, became the first pilot to reach the 2,000 flight hour achievement in the F-22 Raptor, August 7, 2021.
Eli Clark, Lockheed Martin F-22 strategic mission planner and Victor Sanchez Jr., Lockheed Martin F-22 field support engineer, present Lt. Col. Ryan Pelkola, 302d FS director of operations, with a plaque August 7, 2021, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Pelkola is the first F-22 Raptor pilot to accomplish 2,000 flight hours. [USAF photo by SSgt. Melissa Estevez]
This is accomplished when a pilot has reached 2,000 hours flying an F-22. For Col. Pelkola this task took 14 years and 1,323 sorties to achieve. Average sortie times for F-22 pilots are one hour and 15 minutes.
The 302d FS
is assigned to the 477th Fighter Group. This is now the second time the 477th FG has achieved such an accomplishment. On November 4, 2011, Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, at that time the 302d FS commander, became the first F-22 pilot to hit the 1,000 flight hour marker.
“I would argue this is the most experienced fighter squadron in the Air Force. Just with the time, it has spent flying various aircraft from F-15 and F-16s and now a majority of the time in the F-22,” said Pelkola. “We have the ability to continually train and help upgrade active-duty pilots and get them to a combat-ready status”.
The 302d is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Total Force Enterprise and is integrated with the 3d Wing active duty host unit. This integration allows reservists to share knowledge with the ever-revolving active-duty pilots.
“Our fighter pilots in the 302d have on averages have three to four times more hours in the F-22 than the average active duty,” said Col. Jonathan Gration, 477th FG commander. “In the 302d we are 100 percent instructor pilots. So, on any given day we are instructing, whether formal instruction or informal instruction.”
While this is a monumental milestone in F-22 history, Pelkola is extremely proud to be a reservist in the 302d FS and have the chance to mark this milestone. “The Air Force Reserve has made it possible to keep doing what I love and live in a place that I especially love.”
“It’s nothing special that I did. It really just means that I’m getting old,” said Pelkola. “Hundreds of people are involved with making these jets fly and I’m humbled to be part of that team.”