35th & 53rd FIGHTER SQUADRON
Konstantinos 'Dinos' Stylianopoulos poses happily with his F-15 fighter somewhere in the United States (above) and Europe (below). The remarkable thing is that because of his flying abilities he managed to take the slot for the Eagle training, although being both United States and Greek citizen, something which created problems regarding classified data of those days super-fighter. He managed to overcome these difficulties and finally fly operational the Eagle over Europe and Northern Iraq while operating from Incirlik supporting Operation Provide Comfort in 1994. (Kostas Stylianopoulos & Unknown source)
Konstantinos 'Dinos' Stylianopoulos is a special kind of a Greek in foreign cockpits. Born and raised in Greece, he left for studies in the United States of America dreaming of being an airline pilot. He gained his US citizenship and enlisted to the USAF, trained by Hellenic Air Force Officers during Euro-Nato pilot training programme in Sheppard AFB, TX and finally became a pilot in one of the hottest fighters ever made, the famous McDonell Douglas F-15 Eagle. After he left the Air Force he flew in numerous airlines and now he flies over the Pacific with the Cathay Pacific Airlines, big airliners like the Boeing 747 and Boeing 777. No one could write about him better than he did, in our introductory note for our Volume B' of GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS.
"Its the fall of 1984. I had finished high school and was with my first girlfriend, Tessy, riding across the coastal freeway in Glifada, next to Athens airport in my Simonini 50CC (special pistons made it very powerful) motocross bike making noise. I had barely finished high school by the skin of my teeth (reexaminations for four subjects) without getting admitted in any Greek Universities. It has always been very competitive and my lack of studying combined with excessive semi-pro soccer playing at the age of 17 sure did not contribute. We stopped at a gas station to fill up with the special mix for 2-stroke bike engines and I see a big jet taking off from the old Athens Airport in Hellenikon...and it hit me...why didn't I think of that earlier... forget the professional soccer dreams, which had been crushed by a broken ankle as well as unrealistic expectations and the unwillingness to work as hard as I needed to get selected....I will be a pilot! They have the life...they fly to nice places, stay there and get a paid vacation, they have plenty of time off, they wear nice uniforms, and...they get all the girls! I had stepped in enough cockpits before during our family flying back and forth from Greece to the USA for vacation and to accompany my dad a few times during his work there as a civil engineer. So...when I got home I told my parents. You could see my mom's jaw drop. My dad did not flinch. He knew better than not to oppose me. He only asked me why and I made up some reason like I would love to be up there and the lifestyle would be great and also the money would be decent. February of 1985, I broke up with Tessy. Instead of sitting and crying about it, I decided I better take action and pursue being a pilot. I told my parents we better find some class dates and a good university and take action as soon as possible. Only a small college accepted me, close to my mom's very good friend Mrs. Mary. The deal was I stay with them and prove myself, get good grades, and then take it from there. In April 1985, I arrived in Detroit airport and started Oakland Community College the next month. I knew better than to play around and realized I better study and kick ass or I would be returned as a complete package back to Greece and continue working to Mr. Manos at the jewelry store. Not an option I wanted to even think about. Things went well in the college, grades were good because I finally found something I was really interested in. Flying started in June and yes! It was what I was looking for. In July, Mrs. Mary told me a Delta Airlines pilot she knew mentioned that Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, 2.5 hours away from Detroit, was one of the best Aviation Schools in the country. My dad came in August, we visited, and, based on my good grades, I was accepted at WMU. One pivotal event in the first semester in the Fall of 1985 changed my entire life course. I was at the first meeting of the Sky Broncos, the WMU flying club, and they showed a clip from a Thunderbirds Show...and all I could think about was...how can I do that? It sure in my mind beat airline flying, being the most amazing things a man can do with his pants on. I was told that once I had my citizenship (was a Green-card resident then) I would be qualified to apply and was told I needed to get good grades. Not a problem. A few more encounters with the Thunderbirds, culminating in a live show in Battle Creek, Michigan a couple of years later sealed the decision, I was going for it! Got my citizenship, applied, and was accepted. I had a couple of good friends from the Flying Club that had been in US Air Force Pilot Training (UPT) and told me what to do and what base to go for to fly a fighter...I always wanted to fly the F-15 Eagle. Made it with good marks in Officer Training School (the only thing that caused me third place instead of first was the pull-ups which is why I still do them now) and was fortunate to get one of the slots to the Euro-Nato pilot training in Sheppard AFB, TX. My luck didn't end as at ENJPT I got to meet 3 Greek Instructor pilots who were on their tour there from HAF. Captains Rigas Tsitas, Nikos Retsas, and Antonis Saramandis. These fellows showed me all their 'techniques' from having intercepted hundreds of Turkish Air Force Fighters flying their Mirage F.1s. Retsas showed me how to allude radar by turning the Transponder off as a tactic widely used by the Turks in the Aegean sea airspace. So here I was flying a USAF T-38 at Sheppard AFB with Greek instructors! I flew along in formation in ENJJPT (Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training) with a few Greek Instructors and two check-rides with Capt Antonis Saramandis.
He took care of me like I was a Greek. We spoke English on the airplane and kept everything professional and according to the book. But at the end of both flights, he told me: "I will only give you one downgrade (it an almost perfect check-ride) and no one can say anything to me because everyone knows your flying is so good. A black mark of my stay at Sheppard AFB was the T-38 accident three days after I graduated that killed an Italian Instructor from our training flight and a student on his first ride. My assigned instructor and good friend, Mike, watched it happen right in front of him and then took control of the jet from the student and had to land and taxi by the burning airplane and two dead pilots. Placed First in my Class. Got my F-15, being very fortunate because USAF was in a force reduction stage in 1991 and only four out of 12 Americans got airplanes the other 8 got a desk for three years before they moved on to their flying assignment. Almost lost my F-15 and security clearance in 1992, when the USAF did not want to grant me a Top Secret Security Clearance because I was also a Greek Citizen. The first 8 months of 1992 were the hardest months of my life. All this work all these dreams to go away, and go fly a heavy? But things turned around. In August 1992 I got a letter approving my Top Secret Security Clearance. Started F-15 Training in September 1992 in Tyndall Air Force Base and in March 1993 I was at my first F-15 Base at Soesterberg AB, Netherlands with the 32nd Fighter Squadron – The Wolfhounds. Flew in two more bases Bitburg AB and Spangdahlem AB, Germany with the 53rd Fighter Squadron, the Tigers. Flew 13 Combat Missions as patrols over Northern Iraq based in Incirlik AB, Adana, Turkey. What an experience that was...in March and April of 1994. The highlight of this 45-day tour was the mission return...something there is no way you could do today by the way...Iraq was little over 500 nautical miles and one hour flight from Incirlik. On our way back we always had a lot of extra gas as we carried three external tanks (center and two wing) and we normally air-refueled right before returning to base. We would go within 50 miles of Incirlik (affectionately known as the 50-mile circle) and we would do anything to burn the gas before we landed...to include flying low and fast. If you are Greek, you know the feelings I had in me flying at an undisclosed altitude and a very high speed over the mountains and villages surrounding Incirlik AB! Right after I left, another black mark. Two of our best pilots shot down two NATO helicopters by mistake, killing 26 people on board. The worst nightmare of a fighter pilot...fracticide. During Oct-Nov 1994, I flew in the Red Flag exercise, a very standard stuff for F-15 guys! Another wonderful event during an exercise in Nea Anchialos AB, Greece when I was stationed at Aviano AB, Italy, was the opportunity to fly twice in the back seat of a Greek F-16D with two amazing guys. The second guy even gave me control of the aircraft at 300 feet above the ground in tactical formation while going through mountain passes. Can you imagine the feeling at the controls of a Greek aircraft even for a short while and getting the tour of Greece within about 30 minutes, seeing everything from the top....I still get goosebumps thinking about it. Had some great conversations with the Greek fighter pilots and flying with them I cannot find any harder working, sharper, dedicated group of men, protecting their country. Did my last assignment at Randolph AFB TX teaching at the T-38 Instructor training. Enjoyed it thoroughly but the writing was on the wall...had to fly a desk at some time. Flew with a good friend that knew one of the pilots at Cathay Pacific...and was able to get selected and get a taste of that (or what) I dreamed of when I saw that airplane taking off from Athens airport in the fall of '84. I am very thankful for the aligned stars that contributed to this amazing life experience and I hope you are inspired to go after your dreams, in aviation or any field you choose, with power, focus, and discipline."
In the right side, there are various photos regarding 'Dino's' career while serving with the USAF. The first was taken while in Panama City in 1992 and the second while he was participating in the RED FLAG in 1995, 14 years before pilots of the Hellenic Air Force participated in the exercise, for the first and last time since then, over Nellis AFB. The last one is during his posting as an instructor in Randolph AFB learning the art of flying to new air cadets coming from any NATO nation. Kostas enjoyed very much his flying the T-38 Talon which is more enjoyable after gaining experience in a fighter unit. The T-38, while not a complex or difficult airplane to fly, it nevertheless has some unique flight characteristics that demand absolute precision and discipline from its pilot. (Kostas 'Dinos' Stylianopoulos)
The F-15C above is a typical example of the 53rd Fighter Squadron Eagles, deployed in Incirlik, Turkey from Spangdalem, Germany, during Operation Provide Comfort in 1994. Kostas 'Dinos' Stylianopoulos flew 13 operational missions with an F-15 like the one above and possibly the same aircraft. The Eagle still remains one of the best fighters in the world and will keep serving through major improvements in its design and electronic systems, like full glass cockpit and AESA radar. According to the well-known aviation author and experts on the subject, Steve Davies: The F-15A/C is irrefutably the most successful jet fighter of the last 30 years. Serving in the Air Forces of Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, it has racked up a kill ratio exceeding 105:0. Despite its age, it remains the leading operational air superiority and intercept platform in service today. The hi-tech wizardry of modern air combat detailed in this book makes for fascinating reading, even to those not immediately familiar with modern airpower, and a huge pool of previously unpublished information on both aircrafts' combat records is uncovered. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
Left: Kostas on his "Desk Flying" duties while serving as an instructor in the Randolph AFB. Paperwork, although not as fun as flying, is crucial for any pilot either its had to do with a mission report, a debriefing, a trainee evaluation or just simple reading and taken notes improving his knowledge in various aspects of flight or an aircraft and weapon system. (Kostas 'Dinos' Stylianopoulos)
Right: Kostas Stylianopoulos and Kiriakos Paloulian during the former visit in Athens this year holding the second volume of GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS which was gifted to him by our team. Kostas wrote the introductory note which is the one presented in this page. Kirk and Kostas are longtime friends and both experienced pilots, each on its field. (Kiriakos Paloulian)
Βlack and White marker drawing of a 53rd Fighter Squadron F-15C, while flying over Iraq, created for the GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS Volume B', inspired by Kostas 'Dino' Stylianopoulos, introductory note. The artist of this drawing is George Moris, who is the main artist of our book series paintings as well as for the paintings we create as gifts, to any Greek parentage pilot or relative visits Greece and meet our team. (George Moris)
Kirk Paloulian correspondence with Kostas Stylianopoulos.