South Dakota bomber pilot makes Air Force history

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, July 17, 2013

RAPID CITY, S.D. — An airman at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota has become the first in Air Force history to log 5,000 flight hours in a B-1 bomber.

Lt. Col Tim Schepper, 50, has been in the Air Force for 27 years. The amount of time he has spent in a B-1 is equivalent to more than seven months. About one-fourth of his flight hours have come during combat.

“It feels like my body is perfectly formed to fit in that seat now,” Schepper joked after landing Monday following a 19-hour nonstop flight from southwest Asia that put him over the 5,000-hour milestone.

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Schepper, who grew up on a ranch near Vergas, said he never imagined he would reach 5,000 hours, even after hitting 4,000 hours about four years ago.

“The support my family has given me allowed me to do this,” he said. “There’s so many sacrifices they made so that I could have the career that I had. Without them it would not be possible by any stretch of the imagination.”

Dan Ruder, Boeing’s B-1 advanced programs manager, flew from Oklahoma City to Rapid City to see Schepper’s plane land. He called it a milestone for the company’s 30-year-old aircraft.

“When you combine that with the airline flying over 10,000 combat missions, it shows us how relevant and important the platform still is to our national security,” he said.

Schepper plans to retire from the Air Force later this year and possibly fly for a cargo company or commercial airline. In the near term, “My next goal is maybe to take a nap,” he said after the 19-hour flight.