The longest flying F-22 Raptor pilot in the world took his final flight on Friday and the 477th’s Cmdr. Col. David Piffarerio said it was a bittersweet way to end a job he always wanted to do.


“I’ve always loved fighters. I grew up around them. My dad was in the Air Force,” said Pifferario. “I went to the Air Force Academy and got to basically live my dream.”


He started his career 22 years ago flying F-15s.


“I’ve loved every flight since then, I really have,” said Pifferario. “Every time I strap into the cockpit I take a deep breath and really enjoy what I’m doing.”


The last 14 years have been spent flying F-22s. He spent more time in the cockpit of a Raptor than anyone else in the world — 1,540 hours. That’s a little over nine weeks total.


Piffarerio served at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for 12 years. During that time he took part in the alert mission, intercepting Russian aircraft that fly too close to Alaska air space.


On Friday, he spent one final hour in the sky.


“It was phenomenal. It was everything I could have ever asked for, dreamt of,” Piffarerio said.


He’s ready for a future with his feet on the ground. It’s a future that’s looking bright, thanks to support from his fighter group family. That family is the one thing Piffarerio says he’ll miss more than flight.


“It’s more than the aircraft, it’s the people,” he said. “It’s the relationships that you build with your maintenance, with your pilots, with everyone in your organization. That’s the part that I’m really going to miss.”


Piffarerio, his wife Jennifer and son Bryce are headed to Washington, DC where Piffarerio will attend the National War College.