A part-time Air Commando has become the first pilot in the U.S. military to pass the 3,000-flight hour mark with the CV-22 Osprey helicopter.
Lieutenant Colonel Luke Sustman, the new commanding officer of the recently activated 249th Special Operations Squadron and an officer with the Florida Air National Guard, achieved this historic feat earlier in August.
“Nothing really compares to a CV-22. Going from 230 knots to a hover to landing in the middle of nowhere without a runway is amazing,” said Lt. Col. Sustman in a press release. “The flying is great, but I find that the experiences and people I’ve had the opportunity to work with have made it the most rewarding.”
Lt. Col. Sustman has eight deployments and over 450 combat hours in the cockpit. He has been flying the CV-22 Osprey since 2006 when he was one of the pilots that were selected to stand up the first CV-22 squadrons as the aircraft was entering service.
A tiltrotor aircraft, the CV-22 Osprey is a mix of a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. It can take-off and land vertically and hover. But it also has the fuel capacity and speed attributes of a turboprop aircraft. This combination between these two aviation worlds makes the CV-22 Osprey an ideal platform for long-range infiltration and exfiltration missions. It has been utilized in that capacity by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The CV-22 is the Special Operations variant of the United States Marine Corps’ MV-22.
Brigadier General Michael Valle, the Assistant Adjutant General of the Florida Air National Guard, said that “to be the first ever U.S. Air Force pilot active, reserve or National Guard to hit over 3,000 hours in the CV-22 is a remarkable accomplishment. Lt. Col. Sustman will be in the history books and his legacy will forever be enshrined with this amazing feat. I couldn’t be prouder of Luke and his team at Hurlburt and I’m so glad he’s on such a high performing team in the Florida Air National Guard.”
Lt. Col. Sustman’s feat showcases the flexibility of the reserve and national guard components. Troops serving in the reserves or national guard can pursue civilian careers but also serve their country. Despite the occasional upsets to that balance, especially when a unit is mobilized to active duty, part-time service members can make the best of both worlds. Indeed, their civilian occupations often bring a lot to the table when in uniform and increase their effectiveness.
With a combat radius of 500 nautical miles, a ceiling of 25,000 feet, and a maximum speed of 280 knots, the CV-22 Osprey is a great platform, despite the occasional mechanical issues that have plagued it. It can carry up 32 troops or 10,000 lbs of cargo. Each aircraft costs $90 million.
“There are young pilots and flight engineers who will spend their entire career in CV-22s and hopefully far surpass the 3,000-hour mark,” added Lt. Col. Sustman. “My hope is to create an environment where they will feel supported and equipped with the knowledge to fully thrive and reach their highest potential.”