Two 131st Bomb Wing B-2 Pilots surpass 1000 flying hours in Stealth Bomber
By Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 28, 2012
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Maj. Geoffrey Billingsley took off on an ordinary B-2 training mission June 13. Exactly two weeks later, Lt. Col. Dave Thompson took off on another B-2 training mission. Their normal work days turned extraordinary when on these flights they each surpassed 1000 flying hours in the B-2 Spirit.
These accomplishments are another huge milestone for the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing and the Air Force 509th Bomb Wing's Total Force Integration in the B-2 Spirit flying mission.
"This is a unique aircraft with a unique mission," Billingsley said of the stealth bomber. "I'm privileged to fly it and honored by the trust placed in me by the U.S. government and our fellow citizens."
The B-2 is not Billingsley's first aircraft. He has also flown the T-37 as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot along with the T-38 while in the USAF, and the B-757 and B-767 airliners at Delta Air Lines.
He said the B-2, although it flies much like any other aircraft, is an incredible machine. His role in the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron involves operational test of new weapons, hardware, and software when they are added to the B-2. "We run a checkout of the new equipment before it's fielded for the Bomb Wing. We also evaluate the individual aircraft to ensure they are as stealthy as the day they were built." It was during one of these 16-hour test flights he passed the 1000 hour mark.
Lt. Col. Thompson shared the sentiment. "I am so proud to be part of this team that is the 131st Bomb Wing. Every day I see and hear about the amazing ways that the Guard has impacted this incredibly important mission. This achievement really is small compared to the herculean efforts that have gone into getting the 131st to where it is today, living and breathing the B-2 mission."
Currently the commander of the 110th Bomb Squadron, Thompson has flying time in the F-15, T-38, and B-737. Today he piloted the B-2 "Spirit of Ohio" alongside Maj. Jared Kennish, crossing the 1000 hour mark while competing in Air Force Global Strike Command's 3rd Annual Global Strike Challenge. Global Strike Challenge is a competition to identify the best operations, maintenance, and security forces units performing the global strike mission. Crews flying B-2's, B-52's, and B-1's compete in this challenge, and part of their job is to get the "best bomb," have perfect timing, and to comply with all special instructions. The results of the challenge are forthcoming.
Thompson became the first Air National Guard B-2 instructor pilot in 2007, and flew the first-ever "all-Guard" flight with Col. Greg Champagne, the 131st Bomb Wing commander, later that year. The flight was launched, flown, and recovered completely by Missouri Air National Guard personnel. But Total Force Integration with active duty personnel at Whiteman Air Force Base is on the minds of all.
"There are so many people involved in the process of preparing and launching the jet every time we take off. They are true professionals, and I've enjoyed working with them tremendously, both as an active duty and Air Guard B-2 pilot," Billingsley said of the 509th and 131st Bomb Wing support personnel and maintainers.
Maj. Billingsley is now in his 15th year of service. He spent over 10 years on active duty before transitioning to the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing in May 2008. He has known since age 12 that he wanted to follow this career path, and feels like all he did after that was walk through each door that opened. "It's been amazing to see God shape and guide my career," Billingsley said. "He's given me the chance to serve my country while at the same time doing something I love."
Only 31 pilots have ever reached 1000 B-2 hours, and just thirteen still actively fly the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Of those thirteen, seven are Missouri Guardsmen. Maj. Billingsley and Lt. Col. Thompson become the sixth and seventh131st Bomb Wing Airmen, respectively, to reach this B-2 flying milestone. They join fellow 1000 hour 131st pilots Lt. Col. Rhett Binger, Maj. Jared Kennish, Maj. John Avery, Lt. Col. Mike Pyburn, and Lt. Col. Mike Means, who has over 1500 B-2 flying hours.
"This is truly representative of the 131st Bomb Wing and the Air National Guard," said Lt. Col. Mike Pyburn, 131st Operations Group Commander. "We bring unparalleled experience, expertise and qualification levels to the fight in support of our active duty Total Force partners, our state and this nation."