RQ-4 Global Hawk reaches historical milestone: 20k flight hours
By Tech. Sgt. Lynette Hoke, 380th Air Expeditoinary Wing
/ Published February 21, 2018
AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates -- A significant milestone occurred for the aviation community on Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates this week, when an RQ-4 Global Hawk reached 20,000 Flight Hours on Feb. 13, 2018.
“This milestone was the original lifespan of the aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Pipes, Hawk Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. “It’s exciting to see where this technology and this aircraft can take off too and how it can help those who are downrange.”
The aircraft that reached this milestone is an EQ-4 equipped with a Battlefield Communications Airfield Node Payload. The EQ-4 aircraft can be flown for more than 24 hours depending on mission requirements. Rotating pilots and allowing for their proper crew rest is one benefit of this aircraft.
Major Manuel Ochoa, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot from the 99th Air Expeditionary Recon Squadron stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, also played a big part in having the aircraft touch down for it’s 20,000th hour.
“From being a manned aircraft pilot, getting 12-hours in the air was a long day…you needed a day or so to recover before going up on your next mission,” said Ochoa. “When it comes to this plane, you can cycle pilots without having to land and that is a great benefit.”
The aircraft landed shortly before noon and was greeted by a crowd of people who wanted to see and be a part of the impressive 20,000th hour.
“I am very honored to be a part of this legacy and to see it meet such a huge milestone,” said SMSgt Pipes. “The sky is really the limit and I am excited to see where this can take off too. This aircraft can fly around the clock and now we are looking forward to see it reach 40,000 hours.”
Between the safety officers, to the pilots, to the maintainers and contractors, it took a great amount of teamwork to get the aircraft to reach this groundbreaking number in flight hours.
“It is called an unmanned aircraft, but there is a large number of contractors, active duty personnel and maintainers that keep this aircraft going,” said Ochoa. “We do have a hand in the fight and I am very honored to be apart of this legacy, to have it meet a huge milestone.”
According to Ochoa, similar aircrafts are trailing behind it with approximately half the number of flight hours.
“It’s exciting to see where this will go and where the next 20,000 hours will take us,” said SMSgt Pipes.