HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — While most only see a quick glimpse of a fighter pilot as they fly a jet overhead, FOX 13 got a behind-the-scenes look at some of the things that pilots are tasked with before takeoff.
"Typically, if we're scheduled to fly it'll be a 12-hour duty day, so we'll show up, we'll prepare for the flight itself, whether it be by studying or putting up mission boards to get everyone in the flight on the same page," said Capt. Chris 'Clutch' Shannon, a pilot for the 421st Fighter Squadron with the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base. "Then, we'll brief the mission about two-and-a-half hours prior to takeoff, that will take approximately an hour and then we'll come into the aircrew flight equipment room to put on all our gear."
Capt. Shannon has been at Hill Air Force Base for about two years. He deployed last summer and was stationed out of the United Arab Emirates.
Clutch says that it's a common misconception that fighter pilots only show up each day, hop in a plane and take off.
"That's a common misconception even amongst support personnel here on the air force base that all we do is look like rockstars, step out to the jets, put our sunglasses on and go fly airplanes," said Capt. Shannon. "I would say 90% of my job is preparation, every fighter pilot has basically a full-time job to keep the squadron running, in addition to doing upgrades to get better at flying their aircraft."
Afternoon takeoffs and night training are crucial to the mission. Those who live near Hill Air Force Base can expect to hear and see F-35's for a few more weeks in May. Some of the flights may have later landing times at night than previous flights throughout the spring.
According to the 388th Fighter Wing, given the proximity to Salt Lake City International Airport and Ogden Regional Airport, they coordinate flights in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration.