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    VaANG fini flight marks end of era for Sandston pilots

    Potas Fini Flight

    Photo By Bryan Myhr | Col. Daniel Potas, 149th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and Air National Guard...... read more read more

    JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, VA, UNITED STATES

    12.03.2021

    Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Myhr 

    192nd Wing

    JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- The last Virginia Air National Guard fighter pilot from the F-16 Fighting Falcon era in Sandston, Virginia, completed his “fini flight” Dec. 3, 2021, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Col. Daniel Potas, 149th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and ANG advisor to the Air Combat Command inspector general, capped off a 30 year United States Air Force career with the traditional final flight.

    Fini flights have been documented since the 1950's as a celebration of the milestones in the careers of Airmen. Potas is the last fighter pilot serving in the VaANG who flew F-16s in Sandston prior to the unit’s transition in 2007 to flying F-22s at JBLE.

    Potas was launched by Chief Master Sgt. Brian Orzolek, 192nd Maintenance Squadron superintendent.

    “[Orzolek] was up at Sandston before I got there,” said Potas. “He crew chiefed up there as a maintenance professional, and then a senior NCO [noncommissioned officer] and then promoted to chief. So that was a great experience to have him launch me out and get my final salute from a crew chief that is a chief master sergeant.”

    Potas knew he wanted to be an Air Force fighter pilot in 1989 when he got to ride in the back seat of an F-16 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet. In 1991, he was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force and began pilot training the following year. Serving as an F-16 instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Potas completed his 10 year active duty commitment and was looking for a change.

    “I started looking for options to go to the Guard or Reserve because I finished my master’s degree and I got really interested in business,” said Potas. “I got an opportunity to fly for a startup airline that was out of New York.”

    In 2002, Potas joined the VaANG in Sandston to stay close to his new civilian job and maintain his military proficiency.

    “Once you get six or seven years of flying fighters, there is so much invested in that training that I didn’t want to not continue to do that for the military and for the taxpayers who had to pay for all that training,” said Potas.

    Over the course of his career, Potas logged over 3,200 hours in fighter jets and deployed multiple times in support of operations overseas. He flew over 2,000 sorties and served as an instructor for approximately 300 pilots. For every launch, a team of maintainers ensured every system on the jet was safe and operational.

    “The F-22 is a super complicated system of systems... we have a lot of hard working folks behind the scenes that don’t necessarily get to see the fruits of their labor sometimes because they are in a workshop with closed doors,” said Potas. “And of course, the crew chiefs are the main interaction with the pilots out on the flightline. We have great relationships, working together to get the aircrafts safely out of the chocks… it has been great, deploying all over the world with maintainers in the F-22 and F-16.”

    During his fini flight, Potas engaged in a simulated aerial gunfight with a T-38 Talon which happened to have his wife riding in the back seat. Lt. Col. Audry Potas, ANG advisor to ACC A5/8/9 and Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) mission crew commander, Georgia Air National Guard, performs additional duties as an aggressor controller for the T-38 adversary air squadron and was in the back seat as part of a familiarization flight.

    “He got me,” she said. “I believe there was a comment over the radio that said, 'Get her Scrappy!'”

    “That’s probably a rare experience; not too many fighter pilots have been able to get into a dogfight with their wife,” said Col. “Scrappy” Potas. “It was an air combat maneuvering ride that we call a ‘2v4’... It is a chance for us to practice short range intercept tactics where our missiles might not work and now we’re forced to merge with the enemy aircraft and then use our shorter range weapons like our heat seeking missiles or guns.”

    “My pilot put up the best fight possible,” said Lt. Col. Potas. “It was absolutely amazing to get the opportunity to fly with him, never happened before. This was definitely a first.”

    As he touched down and exited the aircraft, Col. Potas was cheered on by over 60 Airmen, family, friends and a few retired pilots who also flew for the VaANG in Sandston. As often happens at fini flights, he was soaked with water and sparkling wine. He will continue to serve on ACC staff and plans to retire from the USAF in 2022.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.03.2021
    Date Posted: 12.30.2021 15:17
    Story ID: 412186
    Location: JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, VA, US 

    Web Views: 250
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN