Utah fighter pilot Col. Mike Brill is poised to set yet another world record next week when he is expected to become the only pilot to reach 6,000 flying hours in an F-16.
He will likely cross that threshold Tuesday in a scheduled combat mission out of Balad Airbase in Iraq.
Brill is the most experienced F-16 pilot among the 24 countries that fly the multi-role fighter, a distinction he has held since he was the first American fighter pilot, in 1993, to reach 3,000 hours.
F-16 pilots keep track of their peers on the Web site www.f-16.net, which gives a clear picture of the life span of a career F-16 fighter pilot. The site lists 2,385 pilots in the 1,000-hour club and 538 in the 2,000-hour club. From there the decline in flying time is quite steep: only 21 throughout the flying forces of the world have reached 4,000 hours, and only one other pilot, also an American, will be in the 5,000-hour category once Brill hits the 6K mark.
Brill is a full-time fighter pilot with the Air Force Reserve's 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base. He has been deployed in Iraq since March 2007 and is expected to return home in May.
Eric Hehs, the "Code One" magazine editor for Lockheed-Martin, which built the F-16, said a uniform patch designates pilots' flying hours once they reach each benchmark of 1,000 hours. A 6,000-mile patch doesn't yet exist, he said, since no one has ever logged that many hours in an F-16.
Brill graduated top in his class at the Air Force Academy and began flying F-16s in 1980 when he was a member of the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing, also at Hill.
"It's fun being king of the hill," he told the Deseret News in 1996, when his flying hours, the world record then, were at 3,629. "To be able to tell people you're unique in the world is really special."
When he hit 5,000 hours in 2002, he called himself "fortunate.""The fact that I've been able to stay in the cockpit this long really is a case of being in the right place at the right time."