Military Aviation

Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16 Pilot Reaches Rare Milestone Of 5,000 Flying Hours in the Mighty Viper

Out of 29 countries using the F-16, 10 Americans and one Belgian are on the 5,000-hour list.

Lt. Col. David S. Gritsavage, F-16 pilot, 138th Fighter Wing, achieved 5,000 hours of flight time in an F-16, Sept. 21, 2021, at Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Okla. Gritsavage is the eleventh pilot to accomplish this feat in an F-16, and the first to cross that threshold at the 138th Fighter Wing.

“I started flying F-16s in 1997,” Gritsavage said in an interesting article appeared on News On 6. His call sign is, “Grits.”

“Usually other people pick them for you,” he said. “Luckily I didn’t do anything too stupid, and it kinda goes with my last name.”

Last fall, Grits hit 5,000 flying hours, a milestone only 11 F-16 pilots in the world have accomplished, according to F-16.net.

Out of 29 countries using the F-16, 10 Americans and one Belgian are on the 5,000-hour list.

“It just means my life has been dedicated towards my job, which I love, just like my country,” Gritsavage said.

“That’s what we need when we go to combat. We need that experience to protect our nation,” 138th Air National Guard Base Commander Col. Chad Phillips said.

Col. Phillips credits Gritsavage’s persistence.

“I’ve been in almost 27 years and I just clicked 3,000 hours. So he’s even 2,000 hours above me. Which, his accomplishment is very, very rare,” Col. Phillips said.

Grits and his wife, Regina, who is a flight surgeon on base, moved from Vermont to Tulsa in 2018.

Before the move, Grits had about 4,000 flying hours. About 1,000 of those are combat hours, from a career that has led him all over the world, serving his country.

Lt. Col. David S. Gritsavage, F-16 pilot, 138th Fighter Wing, achieves 5,000 hours of flight time in an F-16, Sept. 21, 2021, at Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Okla. Gritsavage is the seventh pilot to accomplish this feat in an F-16, and the first to cross that threshold at the 138th Fighter Wing.

“Southern Watch, so flying out of Saudi Arabia. And then flying out of Qatar for Iraq. Flying out of Iraq a couple times. Flying in Afghanistan a couple times and Korea a couple times, Japan, or Okinawa a couple times. And then Djibouti once,” Lt. Col. Gritsavage said. “I’m sure there’s a couple more somewhere random in there and then just DACT and training, flag events in Alaska and Vegas and pretty much all over the United States.”

Grits recalled his longest flight, about nine hours.

“So it could be hours of boredom and minutes or seconds of pure excitement,” he said.

Those seconds of pure excitement wouldn’t be possible without the guardsmen on the ground.

Between the air crew flight equipment team, mechanics, maintainers, civil engineers and others, there are hundreds of people working hard every day at the base before each flight takes off.

“And then those guys have to put countless and countless hours onto making sure that that aircraft is airworthy so we can take it out there. And then, that’s all they do. They work hard. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Gritsavage said.

Since June 1993, after conversion from the A-7D Corsair II to the F-16, the 138th Fighter Wing has participated in Operations PROVIDE COMFORT, NORTHERN WATCH, SOUTHERN WATCH, IRAQI FREEDOM, NEW DAWN, ENDURING FREEDOM, and FREEDOM’S SENTINEL.

The men and women of the 138th Fighter Wing are proud to continue a tradition of excellence in service flying the F-16C Fighting Falcon – unquestionably the world’s premier multi-role fighter.

Photo credit: Master Sgt. C.T. Michael and Master Sgt. C.T. Michael / Oklahoma Air National Guard

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-16C Fighting Falcon 158th FW, 134th FS, 86-0336
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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