HILL AFB, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Hill AFB pilot celebrated a milestone. Lt. Col. Jared “Vic” Santos is the first fighter pilot to have over 1,000 hours in the F-35A Lightning II. The USAF’s newest fighter.
During an exercise over western Utah’s military test range, the flight record was reached on a two-hour exercise flight where 4 jets took on 6.
“This is an accomplishment for Vic, for us as a wing, and for the Air Force,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “A relatively short time ago, the Air Force was standing this program up. Now we’ve got our first 1,000-hour-pilot. Pilots like Vic are able to pass that experience on to younger pilots in the F-35 community. They are really going to get the best out of this jet, which is already very capable, and continuing to improve.”
Lt. Colonel Santos was stationed in Utah 2 years ago. He switched from the F-15 and F-18 to the F-35 when he was stationed in Florida.
Here in Utah, he is his team’s special projects manager and leads the COVID-19 response planning and reorganization effort.
When he was young he knew he wanted to serve in the military like his father, uncle, and grandfather, who served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. They talked him into joining the Air Force.
“My dad let me use some of the money he had saved for college to get my private pilot’s license during my senior year of high school,” Santos said. “After a couple flights in a Cessna 172, I had caught the flying bug and was hooked.”
According to an article published by the USAF, Santos graduated from the Air Force Academy, he has 1200 hours in the F-15 and 800 in the F-18.
According to the Air Force, Lt. Col. Santos has flown the jet in combat missions.
He said, “It’s been exciting to see the program progress to where we are today. The stealth and outstanding sensors really give this jet an edge. The analogy I use is: I’m not a great boxer, but if you blindfolded my opponent and gave me a gun, I’d win every time. The stealth is the blindfold, the sensors and weapons are the gun, and combined they make the F-35 an outstanding weapons system.”
“Hitting 1,000 hours doesn’t mean I’m special. It just means I’m old,” Santos said. “One of the most exciting things about watching the F-35 community develop over the past 8 years has been, not only the advances in the aircraft but seeing younger pilots fresh out of pilot training getting to fly it. I’m excited to watch how they mature the Panther into the future.”