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Kingsley Field Eagle Driver Crosses 2,000 hour mark

U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Hiatt (center), an instructor pilot at the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Ore., stands with his fellow pilots immediately after crossing the 2,000 hour mark in the F-15 Eagle while deployed to Kuopio, Finland, May 10, 2016. The wing conducted training operations with partner nation Finland over two weeks in early May as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Pete Weigman)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Hiatt (center), an instructor pilot at the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Ore., stands with his fellow pilots immediately after crossing the 2,000 hour mark in the F-15 Eagle while deployed to Kuopio, Finland, May 10, 2016. The wing conducted training operations with partner nation Finland over two weeks in early May as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Pete Weigman)

KUOPIO, Finland --
The flight from Klamath Falls to Kuopio, Finland is nearly 5,000 miles as the crow flies, and ferrying five F-15 aircraft took roughly 12 hours. Incidentally, those flying hours meant one pilot crossed the 2,000 mark on his next sortie.

Maj. Michael Hiatt began flying the F-15 some 13 years ago and he summed up the experience saying, "2,000 hours was big as a personal goal," and after a long pause he laughs and says, "But really it just means that I'm old ..."

He goes on to say that really the mark that would mean much more to him is the 3,000 hour mark, but he also concedes that it's rare for a pilot to hit that number. The last pilot at the 173rd Fighter Wing to reach that threshold was Col. Wes French who retired in April after 24 years of service. According to Tech. Sgt. Lisa Tysor, who tracks flying hours for the pilots, Col. Jeffrey Edwards, 173rd Operations Group commander, currently holds the wing's highest total hours at 2,960 and will likely be the next to reach the 3,000-hour mark.

But looking back Hiatt has many fond memories. "One of the coolest things was when I became a two-ship flight lead when I was still a lieutenant and then taking another lieutenant out on a flight; so two lieutenants and two thirty-million dollar aircraft," said Hiatt. "That was some fun."

He says the part of his career that he likes the best is, "just getting to fly with a bunch of good friends, guys I've known since college."

When he climbed down to the tarmac, May 10, 2016 the pilots on the deployment gathered around for a group photo.

"It was a fun mission to get 2,000 on, [Maj. Vanbragt] did a good job leading the mission and we did some good work." Upon being asked specifically Hiatt did admit that his team won the scenario.