By Michelle Theriault-Boots
Channel 2 News
5:31 PM AKDT, November 4, 2011
Lt. Col. David Piffarerio made history when he touched down at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage Friday afternoon: He became the first Air Force pilot to log 1,000 hours flying in the cockpit of a sleek F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
On Friday, he exited the cockpit via a black ladder pushed up to the side of the aircraft and got a traditional champagne water spray-down from his fellow squadron members and wife Jennifer.
On today’s training mission – also known as a “sortie” – he and another pilot took the jets to the Alaska Range for exercises. Its grandeur makes it one of his favorite places to fly, he says.
Piffarerio is an Air Force reservist assigned to the 477th Fighter Group of which the 302nd Fighter Squadron falls under. He’s a former active-duty Air Force pilot.
He’s spent so much time in the jet that it feels like home, he says.
“Whenever you strap the jet on, it’s almost like sitting in front of your couch – it’s very comfortable,” Piffarerio says. “You feel very good, very confident in the aircraft, its abilities and what it can do.”
Piffarerio has been flying the stealth fighter jets since 2002.
“I’ve had the opportunity to fly this jet for seven or eight years and I haven’t taken a break,” he says. “That’s how I’ve been able to accumulate this many hours.”
The aircraft is the most powerful fighter jet in existence -- and at an estimated cost of $143 million per aircraft, it’s also expensive.
The Raptor fleet was grounded for four months earlier this year after pilots reported oxygen problems. It resumed flying in September.
Public affairs officer Capt. Ashley Conner said that Piffarerio wore a pulse oximeter on his wrist to monitor his oxygen levels during the flight.
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