Missouri Air National Guard B-2 pilot hits 1,000 flying hours milestone

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  • By Rachel Knight
  • UPAR
Lt. Col. Michael E. Pyburn took off on an ordinary B-2 training mission August 15. What should have been a normal day turned extraordinary when on this flight he surpassed 1000 flying hours in the B-2 Spirit.

This accomplishment was a major milestone for him, for the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing, and the Air Force's 509th Bomb Wing's total force integration B-2 Spirit flying mission.

"We play a vital role ensuring that we hold our nations enemies at risk no matter where they are," Pyburn said about the B-2 mission. "We have the ability to reach out and employ this weapon system anywhere at a time and place of our choosing."

Pyburn has also had the opportunity to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker, WC-135 Constant Phoenix, EC-135 Eurocopter and Boeing B-727, B-737, B-757 and B-767 airliners.

He said the B-2 is a very unique opportunity for him to fly an awesome weapons system in service of the nation.

"Even after being involved in the mission for the last 11 years and flying it for nine of those years, I still get excited every time I go fly," Pyburn said. "Especially when I get the chance to talk to all those who play such an important role in making it happen but don't get the chance to fly the jet."

Pyburn said he never thought about flying hours in a B-2.

"It has always been about working with the great people involved with the B-2, especially the men and women of the 131st Bomb Wing," Pyburn said.

Pyburn becomes only the fifth 131st Bomb Wing Airman to reach this B-2 flying milestone. He joins fellow 1000 hour pilots Lt. Col. Rhett Binger; Maj. Jared Kennish, Maj. John Avery, and Lt. Col Mike Means, who has over 1500 B-2 flying hours.

"This is representative of what the 131st Bomb Wing brings to the fight," said Pyburn. "This is a unique experience and qualification level, which is unmatched in active duty."

Pyburn is now in his 19th year of service. He spent over 14 years on active duty with the last six years of that as a member of the 509th Bomb Wing. He then spent a short time as a reservist serving as an Air Force Admissions Liaison Officer and working at Whiteman at Detachment 12 Training Support Squadron supporting the 509th Bomb Wing.

Pyburn joined the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing in February 2008 as a traditional pilot and was hired full-time in November 2008 as the director of total force integration for the wing.

Pyburn joined the military initially because of the aviation aspect.

"Military aviation was always the primary draw," he said. "I started flying when I was 17 and saw military aviation as the most exciting and challenging aspect of aviation. It also afforded me the opportunity to serve our nation doing something I loved."

The biggest accomplishment for Pyburn in his military career has been the combat mission he flew during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"It was a culmination of years dedicated training, which finally resulted in the employment of the B-2 to kick down the door for the rest of the forces," Pyburn said.