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Reserves resume F-22 flight operations
Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander, taxis an F-22 during the 477th Fighter Group’s drill weekend. This is the first weekend that the Reserves have conducted F-22 flight operations following a four month stand-down. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Ashley Conner)
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Reserve pilots, maintainers resume F-22 flight operations

Posted 10/17/2011   Updated 10/17/2011 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

10/17/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Reservists with the 477th Fighter Group here resumed F-22 flying operations during the unit's monthly unit training assembly or drill weekend following a four month stand-down. The first six jets took off at 9 a.m. Oct. 15.

"Most of our pilots integrated into the flying schedule when our active duty counterparts returned to flight earlier this month," said Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. "This UTA will be the first weekend that all of our Reserve pilots and maintainers will be training together."

The stand-down, directed by the Air Combat Command commander, began May 3 as a safety precaution following 12 separate reported incidents where pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. The stand-down was lifted and the entire F-22 fleet returned to flight following approval of an implementation plan developed by Air Combat Command officials.

Although the F-22's are back in the sky the Reserves will maintain an incremental return-to-fly plan similar to that of the active duty.

"We have a plan in place to get our instructor pilots and flight leads comfortable with basic missions before tackling more difficult flight profiles," said Piffarerio. "Fortunately, we have several instructor pilots in the squadron who have been flying with the active duty for the past two weeks. We will rely on their experience to get the rest of the squadron up to speed as we finish up the return to fly plan for the rest of the pilots."

During the stand-down the Reserve pilots conducted simulator training and related training events to maintain proficiency.

"We continued briefing air and ground threat academics to keep us up to speed on the latest threats facing the F-22. We would also brief some of our typical missions and then stepped to the jets to perform ground operations that included starting and taxiing the aircraft," said Piffarerio. "We also had subject matter experts come to Elmendorf to brief us on F-22 systems and the latest tactics to come out of the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis [Air Force Base, Nevada]."

The Reserve maintainers stayed busy as well, by enhancing safety procedures and endured rigorous inspections to validate their capability.

"During the stand-down the Reserve maintainers were inspected along with the active duty during the Logistics Compliance Assessment Program, which garnered the 3rd Wing an excellent rating," said Master Sgt. Benjamin Waxenfelter, 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Section chief.

Prior to the first F-22 taking off during the UTA the 477th Fighter Group commander, Col. Bryan Radliff, spoke with his Arctic maintainers.

"The grounding period has been a difficult time for both man and machine. I salute each of you who managed to keep both your mission focus and your skill at high levels that enabled such a seamless return to fly," said Radliff. "As we slowly work back in to a sense of normal rhythm, I ask each of you in the flying business to take it slow, continue to follow tech orders, think safety first and look out for each other.

10/30/2011 6:21:06 AM ET
The oxygen system problem on the f-22 is very serious but the aircraft itself is too important to keep grounded. All foes of the United States must once again take the aircraft for what it's worth undoubtedly the most sophisticated jet ever built by any country period.
Mike Roubideaux, Rapid City SD
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