Soaring above the skies of Luke Air Force Base, a pilot reached a milestone few pilots can claim throughout their careers. Maj. Saxon Yandell, 69th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations, reached his 3,000th F-16 flying hour March 15 after 15 years of flying.
While attending the U.S. Air Force Academy he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a pilot, but after being given the opportunity, he accepted it.
He started pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and was sent to Luke AFB for F-16 training in July 1996. He was assigned to Eielson AFB, Alaska, and then back to Luke as an instructor in January 2000. He entered the Air Force Reserve in 2004 and is a full-time reservist in the 69th FS but flies out of the 310th FS.
“I have participated in the entire spectrum of F-16 missions from teaching new students to land, to flying combat missions over Iraq,” he said.
Although only 228 F-16 pilots worldwide are documented as sharing his 3,000-hour achievement, Yandell downplayed the event.
“Since the F-16 has been around for a long time it is becoming more and more common for F-16 pilots to reach the 3,000-hour mark,” he said. “I would say the 4,000-hour mark is a more elusive number.”
He credits whatever measure of success he has had to his faith and his family, the two things, he said, you keep when you retire from the Air Force.
“I love my job and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.