About 3 months ago, I found out that my fiance' had a F-22A Raptor pilot in the family; the pilot is the son of my fiance's niece, who lives in the Chicago area. As we were going to be in Chicago for Thanksgiving, we were invited to have diner at the niece's home, and meet the son, who is with the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, AK
. I had been looking forward to meeting this young man for several months. We arrived at 4:00 PM
Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
When I first heard about all of this, I looked up all the Raptor photos on A.net, and contacted one photographer, hoping to get permission to make a large 18 X 24 print of the very A/C this young man had been assigned to. As luck would have it, the photographer, Agustin Anaya, was formerly employed by Lockheed-Martin, and had spent 6 years working on the Raptor, and was very helpful to me. After making several large prints, we sent them to the pilot's mother, so he had seen them prior to our arrival.
One of the first things I said when I met him was......."I understand that production on the Raptor is scheduled to end after unit 189 is completed"; he corrected me, and stated, "it's only after unit 187, but after yesterday, we are only going to have 186 Raptors". He then told me about the crash in Alaska. He also said that the Air Force "had reason to believe" that the plane had impacted from very low altitude, at close to 90 deg angle, and that it was a almost certain that the pilot had not ejected.
I'm guessing now, but I'm sure he knew the pilot's identity when he was telling me about it.
I had quite some time to get acquainted with and talk with this young man, and many things became very obvious to me; first, people who are selected to fly the USAF
's newest, most expensive fighter jet ever, are absolutely nothing like what most people think of, when they think of fighter pilots. This young man was quite small in stature, probably no more than 5'-5" or so; very reserved, almost shy, but also very "professional". Looking back, I'm certain he was feeling the same "emotion" inside, that members on this forum are feeling since we now know what happened.
I am deeply saddened by this tragic event, and my condolences go out to the family of the pilot. May he rest in peace.
Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein