Steve "Hooter" Rainey flew his 1,000th hour in an F-22 Raptor on Jan. 22, becoming the second person to log this milestone at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Rainey, Lockheed Martin's appointed chief test pilot, flew his milestone flight in tail number 4132, the flight sciences aircraft. When he landed, he was greeted by his wife and the entire F-22 Combined Test Force who were waiting to hose him down - a tradition for such occasions.
"All my life I wanted to fly," said Rainey. "When I was four I sat on the hood of my father's car at a local airshow watching the small airplanes and helicopters at the airport. When the Thunderbirds in their F-100s sped by I fell off the car, looked up at the sky and thought, 'I've got to do that.'"
Rainey went on to graduate from the Air Force Academy in 1980 and later graduated the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School as an Air Force exchange officer. Throughout his career he has flown F-4s, F-16s and now F-22s.
Rainey started on the F-22 program before critical design review in 1994 and recalls a moment when he saw a Pratt & Whitney engine test in Florida.
"I remember the engine starting and when it got to MIL power it started kicking up water from a waterway behind the engine stand," said Rainey. "As soon as full afterburner was selected the alligators had enough and started high-tailing it out of the water and out of the way."
This was a moment when he said to himself, "man I have got to fly that." And fly it he did, all the way to his 1,000-hour milestone.
Significant contributors to Rainey's achievement have been the Pratt & Whitney field service representatives whom Rainey refers to as "outstanding."
"They are an integral part of the team," said Rainey. "I would consider them more knowledgeable than most systems guys."
One of the most integral parts has been the F119 engine which Rainey calls, "the heart and soul of the Raptor — totally robust and transparent to the pilot."
"The beauty of the F119 engine is that it doesn't require any effort from the pilot," said Rainey. "I put the throttle where I want it and the motor does what I ask it to do, all the time."
"Very few pilots ever have the opportunity to work on a program since before critical design review, through the initial developmental test phase and into the sustainment phase," Rainey said, reflecting on his career and milestones. "I am very fortunate to have that opportunity – to work on this fabulous machine and to work with a masterful team of true professionals."