Reaching 3,000 F-16 flying hours is a milestone few pilots reach in their entire career. On the first day of spring, the list of pilots who have reached that milestone added one more name.
Lt. Col. Kevin Aunapu, 69th Fighter Squadron director of operations, flew his 3,000th hour in the Fighting Falcon on March 21 after a quarter-century of flight.
“Having a fighter pilot for a father extremely limited my career aspirations,” Aunapu said, a native of Homestead AFB, Fla.
“There was never any question on what I wanted to do. When I was in high school, I saw the first F-16s land in Europe, and, just like the first time I met my wife, I’ve been smitten ever since.”
After graduating from high school at Hahn Air Base, Germany, Aunapu attended the Air Force Academy and obtained a fighter pilot slot. He attended undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB, Okla., and eventually transitioned to the F-16.
One of Aunapu’s most memorable moments involves seeing the work he had put in as an instructor pilot pay off in combat.
“I will never forget deploying to Afghanistan as a reservist within an active-duty fighter squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” Aunapu said. “Though I had previously deployed to Iraq a number of times, deploying to Afghanistan was the most rewarding professionally. Many of the pilots in the 4th Fighter Squadron had, at one time or another, been students of mine.”
Aunapu also said he wouldn’t be here without those Airmen who keep him flying safe every day.
“Quite simply, I would like to thank our dedicated aircraft maintainers,” Aunapu said. “I’ve been very fortunate. Flying jets that are older than many of the maintainers working on them is testament to the hard work and dedication they put into their profession. Every time I climb up the ladder, I do it with the extreme confidence of knowing countless hours of care have been put into the jet for my one hour of flight — truly amazing.”
Aunapu is one of 253 pilots in the world who have hit 3,000 hours in the F-16.