PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The catapult was ready for launch. The F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot saluted and the aircraft propelled off the flight deck, into the sky. It was a process Capt. Stuart Baker had repeated countless times throughout his 25 years in the U.S. Navy, but today his landing would be different. Today, his landing would make him a member of a small and distinguished group of naval aviators.
Baker, the commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, accomplished his 1,000th carrier-arrested landing, or trap, aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Dec. 11, in an aircraft from the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151.
"This accomplishment has never been about me," said Baker, from Wausau, Wisconsin. "There are so many people over the past 25 years who worked hard to get every plane I flew airborne and to come back safely. Those are the guys who made it all happen."
During his career, Baker accumulated over 4,000 flight hours flying in several different types of aircraft. In flight school he learned to fly the T-34 single-engine propeller Mentor and T-2 Buckeye jet. He flew the A-4 Skyhawk, before piloting the F/A-18A, F/A-18C and F/A-18E aircraft which would define his roles in operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
"I think it is an awesome milestone for any naval pilot to achieve," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Martin Vories, from Rialto, California. "It's not easy to fly a multimillion dollar aircraft onto a moving runway a 1,000 times."
With his latest achievement complete, Baker will finish his tour with CVW9 soon.
"Actions speak louder than words," said Baker. "When I first joined, I always told myself I would quit the Navy once it stopped being fun. Twenty-five years and a 1,000 traps later, here I am. It never stopped."
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