ANG B-2 pilot surpasses 1,000 hours
By Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 26, 2014
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) -- The landing gear touched down and the aircraft skimmed down the runway just as it had many times before. This time, though, a routine flying mission became a major achievement for the 131st Bomb Wing as well as a career milestone for Lt. Col. Ryan "Poacher" Bailey, a Missouri Air National Guardsman who surpassed 1,000 flying-hours in the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber here Aug. 23.
Bailey emphasized that the milestone is a direct reflection of far more than 1,000 hours of great maintenance by the ground crews.
"Today's flight is about the superb maintenance by Airmen in the 131st and 509th Bomb Wings," Bailey said. "It's really a 100,000-hour flight because it takes well over 100 hours of great maintenance for every flight hour."
Bailey said the average mission on the B-2 ranges from three to five hours, but some can last more than 24 hours. On Saturday's mission aboard the B-2 "Spirit of South Carolina," Bailey flew with Lt. Col. Tim Hale, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group deputy commander, on a training sortie that covered three specific scenarios and conducted airborne mission transfer training.
"I've known Lt. Col. Bailey for ten years now and flown with him in both his active duty and Air National Guard capacity." said Hale, who achieved 1000 B-2 flying hours in April, "Given all of our previous projects, sorties, and deployments, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to fly with a good friend during his milestone sortie."
The seamless integration of active duty and Missouri Air National Guard Airmen working together ensure the B-2 is always ready for action, Bailey said. In addition to pilots and mechanics, there is a "behind-the-scenes team" of aircrew flight records, combat crew communications, aircrew life support, and intelligence mission planners that work together to keep the mission successful
"It really does take a talented team to make this platform strike-ready for America--24/7," Bailey said. "It's the dedicated work of Airmen who do it right the first time and then check it again. That's what makes the jet so feared by our adversaries around the world."
There are only 20 B-2 Spirit stealth bombers in the United States Air Force fleet. Counting all statuses - actively flying, retired, and non-flying - there are only 330 pilots who have trained to fly the B-2. Only 43 of those pilots have ever reached 1000 or more B-2 flying hours. 15 actively fly the B-2, and currently seven are from the Missouri Air National Guard.
Col. Michael Pyburn, 131st Operations Group commander, who has over 1200 B-2 flying hours logged, explained the importance of the Guard's role in Total Force Integration. "One of the primary things we bring to TFI is stable, experienced, sage pilots, which is evidenced by the number of 1,000-hour pilots we have," Pyburn said.
Bailey stated that working alongside his Team Whiteman active duty counterparts is very rewarding.
"This place is full of great Americans who work really hard," Bailey said. "The 131st and 509th are really one team thanks to the leadership and commitment of a lot of Airmen."
Bailey, a 16-year veteran of the Air Force, spent nine years on active duty before he transferred to the 131st Bomb Wing, but recalled that his passion for aviation began in high school, where he learned to fly a Cessna 152, paying for lessons with money earned by mowing lawns.
"It is such a privilege to be part of the B-2 program," Bailey said. "It is the most feared and respected weapons system on the planet and it's great being part of this talented team that makes it happen."
Bailey said his parents always encouraged him when he was a child to follow his flying dreams and he credits much of his success to his supportive family.
"My wife Angie has been my number-one fan and our kids have supported me and learned that B-2 engine noise is really the 'the sound of freedom,'" he said.
Bailey joins current 1000-plus B-2 flying hour 131st Bomb Wing pilots Col. Michael Pyburn, Lt. Col. Rhett Binger, Lt. Col. Jared Kennish, Lt. Col. Timothy Rezac, Maj. John Avery, and Maj. Luke Jayne.
"As fun as today was, still my favorite job ever is getting to work with the Citizen Airmen of the 131st Operations Support Flight--they are truly America's best."