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Journey to 10,000: KC-10 flight engineer achieves historic milestone

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Performance and numbers matter. For more than two decades, Master Sgt. Scott Dillinger, a KC-10 Extender flight engineer, has completed countless checks on KC-10 aircraft from California to the Middle East.

He has been working toward his goal of 10,000 flight hours since he became a KC-10 flight engineer in 2004. It took him more than 1,000 sorties to accomplish that feat, but on June 4, during a flight from Misawa Air Base, Japan to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, he hit the 10,000 hour milestone.

Dillinger and his fellow crew members landed at Travis AFB, California, June 6 where they were greeted by several members of the 6th ARS who were on hand to celebrate Dillinger’s accomplishment.

“I reached a milestone that was really important to me and it feels good,” said Dillinger. “Even better than hitting 10,000 hours is sharing it with my crew.”

The flight was part of a refueling mission supporting six F-15 fighter aircraft as they crossed the Pacific Ocean in-route to Alaska to participate in the RED FLAG-Alaska exercise. Prior to leaving Misawa, Dillinger had 9,993.5 flight hours. He joins a select group of KC-10 flight engineers with this achievement.

“To say the least, 10,000 hours is a rare achievement,” said Senior Master Sgt. Philip Edwards, 9th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent. “In my 21 years of flying, I have only known two active-duty flight engineers to achieve this milestone.”

According to Edwards, at least nine people have hit the 10,000 hour mark while serving at Travis and late Monday evening, Dillinger added his name to that list.

“I accomplished something, but I had a lot of help along the way,” he said. “The 6th Air Refueling Squadron has been so good to me. Hopefully, 10,000 hours is something the younger guys can strive for. But, the bottom line is nobody achieves alone. No man gets there by themselves. Everyone here supported me.”

Dillinger hit the 10,000 hour milestone approximately 6 hours and 34 minutes into the 7 hour and 12 minute flight. Once the crew realized Dillinger hit 10,000 hours they celebrated in the cockpit with cups filled with juice. They raised their cups high and honored Dillinger minutes before landing at Eielson.

Master Sgt. Scott Ferneding, 6th ARS assistant NCOIC of standardization and evaluation and a KC-10 flight engineer, has known Dillinger since 2005 and the two have grown close over the years. He helped lead the celebration and was one of the first to congratulate Dillinger.

“He’s put in the work for a long time and this is so awesome,” he said. “To hit 10,000 hours you have to routinely get that alert call at 3 a.m., fly through bad weather and overcome numerous challenges over and over and over. He put in the work and he deserves everything he gets.”

“This KC-10 came into service in 1982 and has a little over 32,000 hours on it,” said Ferneding. “Dillinger became a flight engineer in 2004 and in 14 years has accumulated a third of the flying hours on this jet. What he’s done is amazing.”

The achievement is kind of a bookend for Dillinger and foreshadows the sunset of his military career. After serving in the U.S. Navy, the Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and in the active-duty Air Force, he plans on retiring in November.

“I’ll miss the camaraderie and getting the mission done with these guys,” said Dillinger.

“You can’t stay in the military forever,” said Ferneding. “When he leaves the 6th ARS we will lose 10 percent of flight engineer hours in the squadron. Whatever he does next, I wish him all the best.”

Dillinger hopes his accomplishment will inspire others to achieve their dreams.

“Follow your passion and be good at it,” he said. “Don’t give up. Find the one thing you want to do in life and go after it. Set goals, do your best to achieve them and surround yourself with really good people. And no matter where you get in your career, share your knowledge.”

Before he retires, Dillinger plans on making the most of the rest of his time in the Air Force.

“Now, it’s time to go for 11,000 hours,” he said.