Through Airmen's Eyes: Passing 2,000
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A maintenance Airman stands in front of a fighter jet, arms stretched out as he marshals the jet into place. The engine's roar begins to fade and its canopy opens, releasing a sound reminiscent of an 80s science-fiction flick. As the pilot climbs down, friends and family congratulate him in the traditional manner of splashing him with a stream of ice cold water.
This is what happens when an F-15 Eagle pilot reaches the milestone of 2,000 flying hours.
Lt. Col Alexander Haddad, 44th Fighter Squadron pilot, reached this milestone Nov. 19, after a routine training mission in his F-15.
Members of the crowd congratulated him one by one, to include Lt. Col. Kevin Jamieson, 44th FS commander, who awarded him the 2,000-hour patch.
Reaching that many hours doesn't happen often in the fighter jet world. Unlike heavier airframes such as KC-135 Stratotanker and C-130 Hercules which fly for hours on end, the F-15 Eagle's flight time on an average day is approximately one hour.
Accumulating 2,000 in-flight hours can take an entire career to achieve; it took Haddad a little over 19 years to finally surpass.
"In today's Air Force," said Haddad, "we're fairly limited on flight time and resources, so we're trying to do more with less and we're trying to make every single flight hour count."
Haddad is the first Kadena F-15 pilot to accomplish this feat since 2009, emphasizing the magnitude of what this means for him.
"Ten years ago it was fairly common for guys to get 2,000 hours," Haddad explained. "But nowadays it's not quite as common, so guys are spending a long time focusing on making sure they're doing the right thing with the few precious hours we do get. I'm fortunate enough to actually get to fly 2,000 hours which for me is a fairly big deal."
"It's difficult to achieve that milestone," said Lt. Col. Kevin Jamieson, 44th FS commander. "Typically on a training sortie you average anywhere from 44 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes for each F-15 sortie. But during contingency operations that time goes up to four to five hours, however flying those shorter durations over a long time."
Haddad graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1996, to become a pilot. He finally took off on his first F-15 flight in April 1998.
He said he didn't think he would ever make it to this moment.
"It was one of those that I had always aspired to get to 2,000 hours and four or five years ago I wasn't sure if I was going to make it," Haddad said.
It's a big deal because it shows that you've been able to do your job for a long period of time well, said Jamieson. He wants to congratulate all the hard work Haddad put in to achieve this milestone. It's a good day for him and also for the 44th FS.
"It feels pretty amazing; I'm very privileged that I got the chance to do that here with the 44th and the 18th Wing," said Haddad.