By Capt. Tom Byrd, 2nd Combat Aviation BrigadeMay 8, 2012
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea (May 8, 2012) -- Chief Warrant Officer 4 David R. Lilly, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, reached a milestone here today that very few military pilots ever achieve when he surpassed 10,000 flight hours as an Army rotary-wing aviator.
From Marshalltown, Iowa, Lilly joined the Army in 1972 as an air traffic controller and applied to flight school in 1979. After graduating the following year, he was stationed in Korea as a UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" pilot. In 1983, he switched from the UH-1 to the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Twenty-four years later he retired and continued to fly rotary-wing aircraft for the Army as a civilian. He estimates that between 2,500 and 3,000 of his flight hours were logged from his civilian flight time.
Lilly re-entered active duty in June 2011 and was assigned back to Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division as a battalion standardization instructor pilot. The 2nd Infantry Division is the last remaining permanently-forward stationed division in the Army.
Like he did 32 years ago, Lilly is proud to once again be playing an important role in the 60-plus-year U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance by mentoring young rotary-wing pilots to ensure they are ready to "fight tonight" if called upon to defend Korea. Although his current contract expires in 2013, Lilly wants to keep flying as long as the Army lets him.
"I just want to stay flying," Lilly said. "My drive is to work with the younger guys and make their life simpler so they can accomplish their mission."
Lilly is very humble about reaching this level. He attributes all of his success to the people behind the scenes that provide him the opportunity to do what he loves -- fly.
"If it wasn't for the maintainers, the crew-chiefs, the administrative people and the supply guys, no aviator would have any hours," he said. "Flying is truly a team effort."
Hitting the 10,000-hour mark is an accomplishment that is truly unique, but it was made even more so by those who flew with him.
"The thing that made it really special for me was that I got to fly with my son," said Lilly.
Lilly's son, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael D. Lilly, also a pilot in 3rd GSAB, was sitting next to him in the cockpit. "It was a very special moment for me to be a part of him reaching this goal," he said. "I'm glad I was able to share it with him," said the younger Lilly.
Most aviators say they only know of one or two individuals that have accomplished this distinctive milestone. According to Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Edens, the 2nd Inf. Div. deputy commanding general for support and the senior aviation officer in the division, Lilly is among a short list of pilots accomplish this feat.
"Less than five percent of Army aviators ever reach the 10,000 flight hours mark," he said.
"No matter what is going on down here on the ground, when you get up in the air, it all goes away. You forget about all your problems and just enjoy the flight," Lilly said. "I love it!"