Most hours spent flying the F-16 -Air Force pilot
sets world record
Air Base, IRAQ--By the time Lieutenant Colonel Michael Brill
touched down after a combat mission over Iraq earlier today,
he had broken his own world record for the most hours spent
flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Brill, a 421st Expeditionary
Fighter Squadron pilot, has logged more than 6,000 hours in
Photo:Lt. Col. Michael Brill, a 421st EFS pilot,
climbs into F-16C block 40 #88-0466 (marked 466TH FS) from
the 4th FS before flying a combat mission over Iraq at Balad
AB on May 2, 2008. On that day Colonel Brill broke the world
record he previously set for F-16 flying hours when he surpassed
the 6,000 hours milestone. Colonel Brill is deployed from
Hill AFB. [USAF photo by SrA Julianne Showalter] (enlarge
sustained effort required to spend 6,000 hours flying the
F-16 is phenomenal," said Brig. Gen. Burt Field, the commander
of 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which the 421 EFS falls under.
Col. Michael Brill, a 421st EFS pilot, is congratulated by
his wingman, Brig. Gen. Burt Field, 332nd AEW commander, after
the colonel successfully completed more than 6,000 flying
hours in an F-16 during an OIF combat mission at Balad AB
on May 2, 2008. Colonel Brill is deployed from Hill AFB. [USAF
photo by SrA Julianne Showalter]-enlarge
"Six thousand hours equates to 250 days in the
cockpit -- not counting all the time in ground ops before
and after the flight. That is an incredible amount of time
in a high-G [force], high-speed, high-stress arena.
Photo: Lt. Col. Michael Brill, a 421st EFS pilot,
and wingman Brig. Gen. Burt Field, 332nd AEW commander, listen
to an intelligence brief before flying a combat mission over
Iraq at Balad AB on May 2, 2008.[USAF photo by SrA Julianne
fighters is mentally and physically challenging. The environment,
threat, systems, weapons and the mission set are constantly
changing and require a disciplined program of study and practice
to remain on the cutting edge," said the general who graduated
with the colonel in 1979 from the Air Force Academy. The two
attended F-16 training together at Hill Air Force Base, Utah
the challenges of flying the F-16 almost constantly since
1980, Colonel Brill said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love to fly. I don't remember ever wanting
to do anything else. There is a communication between me and
the machine. Flying an airplane is like being on a roller
coaster that you can steer," said the colonel who grew up
on various Marine Corps bases, but calls Virginia home.
His status as a deployed Reservist is an
example of the Air Force's integration of personnel from all
military branches -- active duty, Reserve and Air National
"The Air Force has been over here in Southwest
Asia for 17 years," General Field said. "To accomplish our
mission, we have needed the Guard and Reserve every single
day of those 17 years. They bring experience, judgment and
maturity to the fight in a variety of different mission sets
and you can't tell them apart from the active-duty [Airmen]
by their appearance, dedication, pride or job performance."
His combat experience includes three tours
in support of Operation Northern Watch, two in support of
Operation Southern Watch, two in support of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Photo: Lt. Col. Michael Brill, a 421st EFS
pilot, prepares to don his helmet before flying a combat mission
over Iraq at Balad AB on May 2, 2008. On that day Colonel
Brill broke the world record he previously set for F-16 flying
hours when he surpassed the 6,000 hours milestone. [USAF photo
by SrA Julianne Showalter] -
Additionally, he led the first F-16 strike
into Afghanistan following Sept. 11, 2001, a 10-hour mission
he described as an "eye opening experience."
The more recent combat missions he has flown
since arriving in Iraq in March have been a lot "quieter,"
because fewer munitions have needed to be dropped -- an indication
that the Global War on Terrorism is being on won, the colonel
Many of the missions flown by pilots in Iraq
are reconnaissance missions, where information is gathered
using high-tech cameras to identify potential ground threats.
"Our primary mission [as flyers providing close
air support for ground units] is to make noise. We are up
there to let the bad guys know what we're capable of and to
keep them hunkered down. This allows the [ground personnel]
to work to establish good relationships with the people who
are helping us. The impact of the airpower is knowing that
the airplane overhead gives people on the ground an umbrella
of safety that is basically irreplaceable," Colonel Brill
alone cannot accomplish the Air Force's mission, Colonel Brill
"The fact that I've flown 6,000 hours of incident-free
flying is a testament to an amazing machine and our dedicated
maintenance support Airmen," the colonel said.
Though Colonel Brill is the only person
to ever surpass the 6,000 flying hour mark in an F-16, he's
already looking to the future. With five years left until
his retirement, Colonel Brill said he doubts he'll be able
to hit 7,000 flying hours, but is willing to give it a try.
"If they want to throw that many sorties at me, I'll take
them. I never say no when they ask me to fly. I love it."
F-16 pilots keep track of their peers on
which gives a clear picture of the life span of a career F-16
The site lists 2,385 pilots in the 1,000-hour
club and 538 in the 2,000-hour club. From there the decline
in flying time is quite steep: only 21 throughout the flying
forces of the world have reached 4,000 hours, and only one
other pilot, also an American, will be in the 5,000-hour category
once Brill hits the 6K mark.
Brill is the most experienced F-16 pilot among
the 24 countries that fly the multi-role fighter, a distinction
he has held since he was the first American fighter pilot,
in 1993, to reach 3,000 hours.
is a full-time fighter pilot with the Air Force Reserve's
419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base. He has been deployed
in Iraq since March 2007 and is expected to return home in