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Reserve fighter pilot reaches 1,000 hours in F-35

Maj. Daniel Toftness, an Air Force Reserve pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, poses for a photo before for a flight Feb. 18 when he will reach 1,000 flying hours in the F-3A5 Lightning II.

Maj. Daniel Toftness, an Air Force Reserve pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, poses for a photo before a flight Feb. 18 when he will reach 1,000 flying hours in the F-35A Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Todd Cromar)

Maj. Daniel Toftness, an Air Force Reserve pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares for a flight Feb. 18 when he will reach 1,000 flying hours in the F-3A5 Lightning II.

Maj. Daniel Toftness, an Air Force Reserve pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares for a flight Feb. 18 when he will reach 1,000 flying hours in the F-35A Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing became the Air Force Reserve’s first operational F-35 pilot to reach 1,000 flying hours in the Air Force's newest fighter jet here today. 

Maj. Daniel “Mental” Toftness joined the Reserve in August 2018 after 12 years on active duty. He now serves full time as an Air Reserve Technician. 

“Reaching 1,000 hours is a cool milestone, especially having been part of the F-35 program so early and seeing the jet transition into what it is today,” Toftness said. 

Toftness began flying the F-35 in 2014, even before the first operational F-35s arrived at Hill in September 2015. He accrued many of his F-35 flying hours at Eglin AFB, Florida, and then Luke AFB, Arizona, as an instructor pilot. He also flew in the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing here. 

“It’s been a quick transition, very cool to watch,” Toftness said. “From the early days until now, as a combat-capable aircraft, it’s been fun being a part of that whole cycle.” 

Prior to becoming qualified in the F-35, Toftness flew the F-16, deploying three times to accrue about 150 combat flying hours. 

The 419th FW and 388th FW fly and maintain 78 jets in a Total Force partnership that benefits from the strengths of both the Air Force Reserve and active duty. Together, the wings have flown the F-35 in various military exercises around the world, and completed three combat deployments to the Middle East.