DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Making it through pilot training is a huge accomplishment but what is there to look forward to after that? One pilot hit a milestone that few can claim.
Lt. Col. Robin ”PB” Sandifer, a A-10C Thunderbolt II instructor pilot from the 47th Fighter Squadron reached the milestone of flying 5,000 hours September 21.“There are lots of challenges that a pilot must face in order to get 4000 hours, let alone 5000,” said Lt. Col. Abel Ramos, 47th Fighter Squadron commander. “To put this into perspective, our student pilots will usually graduate with only 80-90 hours in the A-10 after a six-month period.
As A-10 pilots, our average sortie duration is only 1.75 hours to 2 hours.”
For Sandifer to obtain the 5,000 hours he has to have flown roughly 2,500 sorties.
“PB has been a flying workhorse for over 30 plus years,” Ramos said, “You don’t get to 5,000 hours without putting in long days and flying every opportunity that you get.”
Sandifer is proud to say that he has had no breaks in service and has never gone more than a month without a flight.
While that in itself is a feat, earning this title put Sandifer in a very special group of pilots. “What is most impressive is the fact that “PB”, Sandifer, was able to achieve 5,000 hours in a single aircraft type,” Ramos said. “It’s so difficult, that only five A-10 pilots have ever achieved this milestone in the history of the mighty Hawg and only two of them are still flying today.”
Sandifer has learned a lot and loved every hour of flying in the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“It’s great flying single seat because you have to rely completely on yourself and there is no division of responsibility to operate the aircraft,” Sandifer said. “You have sole responsibility for its safe operation and weapons employment and that’s makes you 100 percent responsible for mission accomplishment.”
The military community is an ever changing one. There are people and missions moving all the time, for Sandifer to maintain his position in the A-10 community for as long as he has wasn’t easy and is fairly uncommon.
“You have to be able to stay assigned to one aircraft for an extended amount of time, have outstanding maintenance support, and be physically capable of withstanding the harsh environment/forces that we fly in,” Ramos said.
Sandifer has been in the fighter community since 1984 when he began flying in the F-15C. Even though he has switched airframes and has flown on active duty, Air National Guard, and finally the Air Force Reserve, the standards have not changed.
“There is a robust physical requirement annually, plus diet, nutrition and rest are critical to safely operating high performance fighter aircraft,” Sandifer said “My only concern is a safe mission and I work hard to avoid complacency.”
Ramos continues to say that “PB” is an outstanding instructor that has no lack of energy and appreciates his drive to do what needs to be done to complete the mission, whether it’s admin work or sitting in the tower as the Supervisor of Flying.
“We are lucky to have him continue to fly with us,” Ramos said. “His depth of experience and knowledge is an invaluable resource for the squadron.”
Sandifer plans to retire in 2019 but until then he will continue instructing the next generation of attack pilots at every opportunity.