Friends and family gathered April 6 to congratulate F-22 Lockheed Martin Chief Test Pilot James â€œJBâ€ Brown III on his 1,000 hours of flying an F-22 at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Brown is the first test pilot to reach 1,000 hours in a Raptor.
Guests cheered as lieutenants poured traditional buckets of ice water over his head.
â€œI think they are a little too eager,â€ joked Brown as he shivered and tried to dry off.
â€œWe are so proud of him – it was a hard earned accomplishment,â€ said his wife Lisa speaking of close calls and the loss of several friends including Lockheed Martin Test Pilot David â€œCoolsâ€ Cooley in an F-22 crash. â€œI just wish David could have been here today, that would have been very special.â€
Brownâ€™s accomplishments include Fellow and past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, flying 8,800 hours in 124 different aircraft, a 16 year career in the U.S. Air Force, United Airlines pilot and chief test pilot for F-117 Nighthawk, where he helped develop and test improvements to the weapons system that were highly valued in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied force.
What is his favorite aircraft?
â€œThe F-22 of course,â€ said Brown. â€œThen again, for sheer stick and rudder fun my favorite is a 1946 clipped-wing Piper Cub.
The F-22 is the third fighter in which he has achieved more than 950 flight hours. The F-4 and F-117 were the others. With the F-117, he has more stealth fighter hours than anyone in the world.
â€œThis is fantastic,â€ said Boeing F-22 Test Pilot Steve â€œHooterâ€ Rainey of Brownâ€™s success. â€œItâ€™s always great to see a superior aviator and a superior aircraft together – especially on such a noteworthy occasion.â€
One of his biggest accomplishments: raising six daughters ages ranging from 30 to two and a half.
Brown was born in Bluefield, W.Va., in 1954 and raised in Birmingham, Ala.
His father was an amateur pilot and inspired him to fly.
â€œI was six years old and watched Alan Shepard walk out to his Mercury Redstone rocket and fly into space,â€ said Brown. â€œThis represented the pinnacle of technology and human achievement. Pretty impressive stuff for a first grader; besides, I thought the space suit was really cool.â€
Brown applied to the NASA astronaut-training program but was rejected because of an abnormal electrocardiogram.
With his quick wit and good nature, he is often a master of ceremonies at special events. True to form, he rattled the base with a sonic boom before landing. â€œThat was for my girls.â€
â€œJB never heard a joke he couldnâ€™t remember and is a choir master for colorful fighter pilot drinking songs,â€ said Darin Russell, a Lockheed Martin photographer who has flown often with Brown. While attending the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards, Brownâ€™s fellow students presented him with the Onizuka Prop Wash Award as the student who contributed most to class spirit and morale.
â€œToday I hit 1,000 hours but that only represents a small part of the tens of thousands of hours our crew chiefs, engineers and maintenance team spends in time for preparation,â€ said Brown. â€œThey are the ones who get up early and bloody their knuckles to make it all happen so I can hop in and have fun. They are the best, and for them I am truly thankful.â€