Senior Captain Steven De Vries, better known as “Vrieske”, from the Belgian Air Force is the first F-16 Pilot outside the US to have surpassed the 5,000 hours on the mighty Viper. Vrieske started his career on F-16 at the age of 21.
His first introduction to the F-16 was in Beauvechain where he and his classmates received their conversion course at the OCU in 1994.
In 1995 he started his operational career in the 23 ‘Devil’ Squadron at Kleine-Brogel. Where he got introduced to the real deal. During his 7 year stay until the disbandment of the 23 Devil SQN he worked his way up to Force Leader and became a weapon School Instructor in 2001.
His first milestone, ‘1000 flight hours’ on the Viper was flown from the backseat. A sqn management mistake, which they realized when he just had gotten airborne. They were going to reschedule him for his 1000 hours the next day. However that. was not taking into account Vrieske knew he was up for his 1000Th flight hour in the Viper. As he returned from his flight and his landing out of the backseat, he rang the SQN bell and marked down 1000 on the board.
As 23 Devil SQN got disbanded in 2002, Vrieske and most of his squandron members went over to the 31 Tiger SQN.
As a Tiger he reached 2000 hours in the Ferry flight back from the Nato Tiger Meet in Turkey. During an Air to AIr Weapons School Instruction Flight he reached the 3000 hours mark and his 4000 hours were documented as the first Flemish Pilot to reach this milestone.
In 2021 on March the 5th, as the first non-US pilot in the world, he breached the 5000 hour mark. However he is the only one having done it all in an operational squadron as a Combat Ready Pilot ever since he gained this status in 1995.
In October 2021 he was chosen as the new Belgian Display Pilot on F-16 for the seasons 2022-2024.
On his First ever Display with his Dream Viper he got awarded the Bill Hartree Trophy for the most entertaining Flying Display in Cosford. And won the prize for best livery in Fairford.
A proud man for what his team has achieved in their first year.