Night training continues at Hill AFB, sonic booms may occur

Local News

An F-35A Lightning takes off during night flying operations at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Aug. 20, 2019. Night flying is required for pilots to sharpen their combat skills and maintainers work around the clock to prepare jets for flight, inspect them after flight, and get them ready for the next flying day. The 388th Fighter Wing is the Air Force’s first combat-coded F-35A wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (ABC4) – Night flight training will continue for Hill Air Force Base members through the first week of April.

Most of the flying is scheduled to finish between 7 and 10 p.m., but there will times where the flying ends later at night.

And even though it is unlikely, you could hear more sonic booms.

Jonathan “Rev” Hassell, Director of Operations of the 388th Operations Support Squadron and a pilot, explains, “We do try to train during the wintertime, as you know the sun sets a lot earlier then. So we are able to get our training over with between 7 and 10 p.m.”

The times can vary depending on weather, airspace availability on the Utah Test and Training Range, and other flight support elements.

The pilots of the fighter wings train at night to keep their combat readiness and all-weather capabilities.

Hassell says, “Night flying is a huge factor in what we do; it’s also much more difficult at times. if you take our regular mission set, air to air training or air to ground training, and then you make it dark, it’s much more difficult to accomplish.”

Night flying is usually limited to what is required to keep the pilots at the top of their game with the skillset.

Hassel explains they use different systems in the F-35 to accomplish the same tasks at night as you would in the daytime.

“We have a system in our helmet, a night vision camera, it actually portrays the image from the night vision camera right on the front of my visor,” he says. “I can look everywhere and see, it almost turns night into day. We also have the thermal imaging cameras located around the F-35 we are able to tie into and display that image on our helmet as well.”

Hill AFB has had all three of its fighter squadrons deployed to support the efforts in the Middle East.

Hassell says the best way to find out what is happening is to check the 3-day fighter wing schedule web page and follow Hill’s social media.

Hassel has flown both the F-22 and now the F-35 and says they are the best in the world at what they do. Both aircraft are powerful and go faster than the speed of sound, which can cause a sonic boom.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kristin “BEO” Wolfe, the F-35A Demonstration Team pilot, performs the “High Speed Pass” during the Thunder over Cedar Creek Lake airshow July 4, 2020, Cedar Creek Lake, Texas. The Thunder over Cedar Creek Lake air show was the first public performance for the F-35 Demonstration Team since their rebasing from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)

Hassell explains, “We actually fly supersonic quite a bit as part of our normal training. I know last week there was a sonic boom heard over Salt Lake City, and to be honest, that was a bit of a surprise for us as well. I’ve been flying fighters for over a decade, and I have never heard of a sonic boom being felt or heard – I think it was 50 or 60 miles away from our training area.”

He continued, “I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again, but it’s my understanding it was part of an unusual occurrence with the weather patterns that night.”

Hassell explains breaking the sound barrier is not like it was with aircraft in the past. Now, he says, “It’s as easy as pushing the throttle forward and is almost imperceptible in the cockpit.”

Utah’s Hill Air Force Base is home to the F-35 Lightning II. The 388th and 419th are the Air Force’s first combat-capable F-35A units. They serve as part of the Air Force’s Total Force Partnership.

F-35 Formation flyover Utah

Hassell ended by saying, “Those of us here at Hill Air Force base and living in the community, really appreciate the support of the local community, it’s been phenomenal to see. I really love living in Utah and looking out at these beautiful mountains and enjoying all of the outdoor activities as well as the great flying.”

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