NEWARK, N.J. — An Air Force cadet has logged over 500 hours in his flight suit in the last six months, shattering a record held since 1986.
Cadet Col. Mike Finnes, 22, of the 490th Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, began wearing the suit the moment he found out about his selection into pilot training. He wore it almost continuously during waking hours until he was medically disqualified and reclassified into Personnel.
“From the time when AFROTC students find out they are selected to fly, and before they actually commission as officers and go to Pilot Training, most cadets are able to condescendingly log around 100-150 hours of valuable time in the suit; making Finnes’ 518 a landslide accomplishment,” says Colonel Sherry Stearns-Boles, Commander of Headquarters AFROTC.
It is the exact uniform worn by pilots who have completed two years of intensive training. Civilians who lack knowledge of Air Force patches and flair find it completely indistinguishable from an actual pilot's uniform.
“It lets them get experience early on,” says the ROTC Detachment Commander Lt. Col. Larry LaRoca. “If they make it through the physical, the security clearance, and flight training they are going to have to spend a lot of time believing they are better than everyone else. This gives them superiority training early on so they can hold their own once they actually accomplish something.”
Fellow students have confirmed Finnes’ self-kept logbook and even claim he may have exceeded the meticulously recorded 518 hours, making it an impressive feat by any standards.
“He wore it all the time and wouldn’t shut up about how he’s practically a pilot,” says a barista at the campus coffee shop.
“He would always wait until the last minute to change,” says a fellow cadet in charge of inviting everyone to social events no matter how unpleasant they are.
When asked to comment about the triumph, Finnes said that he was proud of his work but is in the Personnel career field now and insisted on discussing how support functions are “just as important, if not more so than any operations." He did admit to being worried about all the girls he has told he “was a pilot already.”
Finnes broke a record previously held by the current commander of Air Mobility Command, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, who wore his flight suit for nearly 450 hours during his senior year at Virginia Tech in 1983.