Commentary: Diamond in the rough, commander shares 514th FLTS mission

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Sean Bittner
  • 514th Flight Test Squadron
Many Utahns have seen the A-10, F-16, F-22, F-35 and C-130 aircraft flying around Hill AFB, Utah and the Ogden-Salt Lake City area from time to time. 

What you may or may not realize is that the majority of these aircraft are flown by the pilots and aircrew of the 514th Flight Test Squadron, 413th Flight Test Group, in support of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex mission.  While small in terms of size, the 514th has a large, worldwide reach in support of the warfighter and AFRC's mission to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight, and win. 

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the 514 FLTS, its history and mission, and basically describe how we execute our mission as one of AFRC's best kept secrets!

The 514th was first activated during World War II as a Bomb Squadron, transitioned to weather reconnaissance during the Korean Conflict, and was deactivated in 1965. 

Almost 30 years later, the 514th reactivated in October of 1992 as a Test Squadron.  This year, the 514th will celebrate 23 years of outstanding Flight Test Support to the OO-ALC and 15 years as an Air Force Reserve unit at Hill AFB.  Our mission statement: To execute flight test to sustain and enhance aircraft capabilities for the warfighter.  We accomplish this mission by conducting low-risk acceptance flights on: A-10s,  23 variants of C-130s, 8 variants of  F-16s, F-22A and F-35A/B aircraft following depot-level modifications and major maintenance, providing the final quality-control checks to ensure aircraft are airworthy and mission capable.  Each year we fly nearly 600 flight-test sorties certifying aircraft programs worth over $250 million.

Like the previous 10 commanders of the 514th at Hill AFB, I am proud of the opportunity to lead a squadron full of some of the most experienced and talented aircrews.  Our average fighter pilot has over 2,000 hours and our average C-130 aircrew has over 3,500 hours, all of which average over 15 years of rated, military aviation service.  This experience is critical to not only executing the actual functional check flights, but also to providing expert advice to the respective system program offices, Department of Defense contractors, Team Hill aircraft maintenance professionals and various Developmental Test programs.

Although many years of experience is a key ingredient to executing our mission, conducting frequent low-risk acceptance flights and proficiency/currency missions are also critical to our successful and safe operation.  Air Force Materiel Command sets our annual flying requirements, and with collaboration with the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group, the SPOs, KC-135s from the Utah National Guard in Salt Lake, the 75th Air Base Wing and other base and external agencies, we are able to fly sorties in the world-class northern Utah airspace that keep our skills honed to expertly execute our flight-test mission. It's a Total Force effort for certain, and wouldn't be possible if any piece of the puzzle was missing.  We are certainly honored to support the OO-ALC's AFMC mission, AFRC's mission and proudly serve in one of AFRC's best kept secrets.