F-16 FIGHTING FALCON
FLIGHT TEST ENGINEER
USAF TEST PILOT SCHOOL INSTRUCTOR
Achilles 'Chili' Sakis (Tsakeredes) is the son of Greek immigrants, George (deceased) and Sotiria Tsakeredes, who emigrated to the United States from Greece. Achilles is named after his grandfather, whose Pontic Greek family was forced from the Trabzon area of Turkey during the forced deportation of Greeks from the area in the early 1900s. Sotiria’s father moved his wife, Agape, and their four children from a small village near Kilkis, Greece to the United States in search of a better life in the mid-1940s. They arrived by boat on Ellis Island when Sotiria was only nine years old. Years later, when Sotiria was 17, she was visiting Greece and heard of a celebration happening in Vyroneia, a small village not far from where she was raised as a child. It is there that she met and fell in love with her husband, George. George had served in the Greek Army and was now living in his hometown village of Vyroneia, where he farmed and raised livestock. He played the clarinet in his free time. He was such a good and well-known clarinet player in the village. Even to this day, the old-timers still living in the village refer to him as “George, the clarinet player.” They were married and Sotiria brought George back with her to the United States to start a family and a new life together. They initially lived in a small apartment on 22nd street in Manhattan. George worked wherever he could find work to support their growing family. George eventually found permanent work in the fur industry in Manhattan, which was dominated by Greeks and Jews at the time. Once they had saved enough money, they bought a small home and moved the family to Queens, New York. George and Sotiria eventually had three girls, Isaia, Agape and Eleni, and a boy, Achilles, who was their youngest child. George and Sotiria raised their children in the Greek Orthodox faith, attending St Demetrios Greek Orthodox church in Jamaica, Queens. Achilles’ fascination with airplanes and rockets was apparent from an early age. As a kid growing up in Queens, New York, one of his earliest memories of airplanes was at age 5, when his father took him to the beach at Jacob Riis Park, near Coney Island, in Brooklyn.
"I remember there were these men flying radio controlled model airplanes in one of the parking lots near the beach. I was amazed as I watched them performing all kinds of stunts with those model planes. How were those planes able to do all those tricks in the sky? It was a fascinating experience for me and one that I will never forget."
He had a natural knack for math and science. He passed the entrance exam to attend the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. It was just after graduating from Stuyvesant High School that Achilles began taking flying lessons and soloed a Cessna 152 aircraft at Long Island’s MacArthur airport at the age of 17. Achilles was accepted to the Polytechnic Institute of New York (now called The New York University Tandon School of Engineering, the second oldest private engineering and technology school in the United States). Achilles was awarded the Astronaut’s Memorial Scholarship by AIAA, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a professional society for the field of aerospace engineering. He was also inducted into the Tau Beta Pi Association, the oldest engineering honor society and the second oldest collegiate honor society in the United States. It honors engineering students in American universities who have shown a history of academic achievement as well as a commitment to personal and professional integrity. Achilles graduated Cumme Laude from Polytechnic with a degree in Aerospace Engineering in the summer of 1985.
The United States Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) is where the Air Force's top pilots, navigators, and engineers learn how to conduct flight test and generate the data needed to carry out test missions. Human lives and millions of dollars depending upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. The comprehensive curriculum of Test Pilot School is fundamental to the success of flight test and evaluation. Upon graduating from TPS, graduates will have earned a Master of Science Degree in Flight Test Engineering. Achilles Sakis belonged to this team of flying experts and flew many hours testing airplanes and helicopters, flight systems and weapons. (Copyright Achilles Sakis & further details from USAF Edwards AFB)
That fall, Achilles accepted a position as an Aerodynamics engineer for Grumman Aerospace on Long Island, makers of many famous Navy aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, the E-2 Hawkeye, the EA-6B Prowler, and the A-6 Intruder. While at Grumman he conducted wind tunnel testing and aerodynamic analysis of several aircraft including the A-6E, the EF-111, the E-2C, and the F-14. After working for Grumman on Long Island for a few years and earning his private pilot license, Achilles took a bold step and decided to strike out on his own. He moved to Tampa, Florida, to work for Reflectone Inc., a flight simulator manufacturer. In Tampa, he was away from his hometown and family for the first time in his life. At Reflectone he worked as a flight dynamics and propulsion software engineer, writing computer software to operate full-motion flight simulators, all the while continuing his love of flight by piloting aircraft privately in his spare time. While at Reflectone he designed and developed real-time FORTRAN and ADA simulation models of flight dynamics and propulsion systems and helped develop the world's first full-motion simulator with software written in the ADA coding language. His projects included working on flight simulators for the USAF C-130J, the US Army MH-60, the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and the British Aerospace Jetstream aircraft. From there, Achilles followed his dream of flight and joined the US Air Force. He left to begin training as an Air Force officer at Officer Training School at Maxwell, Alabama in September 1994. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1995 and was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, where he met and married his first wife, Lisa. Lisa gave birth to their son Nikolas shortly thereafter and Achilles was selected for an exciting assignment as a foreign aerospace systems analyst at the Vogelweh Base, adjacent to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. His duties there included planning and conducting scientific and technical intelligence missions at airshows and defense exhibitions in the European Command and Central Command theaters, benchmarking the current state of foreign technology and weapons proliferation in order to prevent technological surprise. He gathered and analyzed foreign threat system performance data, produced estimates and refined US assessments. His work there took him to many exciting airshows and defense shows in England, France, Germany, Greece, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, etc. Being overseas and constantly away from family took a toll on his marriage, and his wife Lisa and 2-year-old son Nikolas moved back to the United States and the couple divorced. Achilles yearned to get back to flying. For his next assignment, Achilles applied to and was accepted to attend the highly competitive U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) located at Edwards Air Force Base, California, for training as a flight test engineer. The school’s leadership was impressed with his civilian experience as an aerodynamics engineer and software engineer, as well as his work as an aerospace systems analyst in Germany. Achilles attended USAF TPS class 2001A and this would become one of the most challenging, exciting and memorable years in his life. Days at Test Pilot School consisted of taking graduate level academics in aerospace, aircraft performance, flying qualities, avionics systems, data reduction and analysis, test and safety planning, test reporting, project management, and flight testing. There were many hours spent studying for exams, analyzing data and writing flight test reports and, best of all, lots of flying for data gathering and research in a variety of aircraft. Test pilot school gives students flight experience in many different aircraft types in order to give the pilots and flight test engineers the confidence and the knowledge to test any aircraft they come across in the future when they go out to be flight testers. While at TPS, Achilles logged flight time and experience in over 25 different types of aircraft including the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon , T-43 (modified Boeing 737), UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, T-38 Talon, C-12 Huron, C-17 Globemaster, F-18 Hornet, Learjet, MB-339, MB-326, C-130 Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker, P3 Orion, MH-53 helicopter, T1A Jayhawk, T6 Texan, AT-6, T-37 Tweet, and the world’s only VISTA (Variable stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft) F-16. After graduating from Test Pilot school, Achilles was assigned to the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force in Florida. There he worked as a flight test engineer, where he was qualified to fly in F-16, F-15, UH-1, and C-130 aircraft. He led a flight test team comprised of over 20 military, contractor and civilian personnel. He planned, directed, executed and reported on the Suite 2 avionics hardware and software upgrade. It was the squadron's largest, most challenging test program for the A-10 Warthog aircraft. He directed the execution of over 70 test missions including a critical flight test deployment at Nellis AFB to test a new Ground Collision Avoidance System. While flying as a flight test engineer in the F-16, during a particular developmental weapon certification test mission, Achilles caught a hazardous over-stress and the test pilot and Achilles were able to land the valuable jet without incident.
Top: Achilles ready to climb the cockpit of a T-38 Talon for another training mission. Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Centre: A cross country flight in the T-38 with a fuel stop in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The T-38 remains in service in air forces throughout the world. The United States Air Force (USAF) is the largest operator of the T-38. In addition to training USAF pilots, the T-38 is used by NASA, the USAF Test Pilot School, and the US Naval Test Pilot School. The aircraft is powered by two General Electric J-85 afterburning engines and has a maximum weight of 12,500 lbs, service ceiling is in excess of 50,000 ft and load factor limits are +7.33/-3 g’s.
Bottom: Achilles and his co-workers, during his assignment as Area Attack Branch Chief of Eglin’s Munitions Test Division. (Copyright All by Achilles Sakis)
While training to become a flight test engineer in the USAF Test Pilot School, Achilles flew also with the famous NF-16D Vista. In 1988, a contract was awarded to General Dynamics, Fort Worth Division to develop the VISTA (Variable stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft). Calspan, a subcontractor to GD, installed a center stick and integrated the computers needed to perform variable stability flights. Wright Labs bought the aircraft in 1988 and from 1988 until 1992, the VISTA/F-16 program was being accomplished. There was no connection between thrust vectoring and VISTA/F-16 at this time. The VISTA F-16D was redesignated NF-16D, the N prefix meaning that the aircraft had a special test status and that the modifications were sufficiently drastic that it would be impractical to restore the plane to its original condition. The NF-16D has two variable feel sticks. The sidestick is over on the console, while the center stick is mounted on a short pedestal between the pilot's knees. The upfront controller had to be removed to put the center stick in, but since the VISTA is a research plane and not a fighter, the loss was acceptable. Both sticks can be either force or motion sticks, with complete control of force gradients, shaping, and range of motion. Three Rolm hawk computers, mounted in the aircraft's dorsal fin, provide the variable stability functions and make VISTA an in-flight simulator. The computer system monitors the pilot's inputs and then moves the aircraft's control surfaces to produce the required motions. The controls to access the computer to change flight characteristics and engage the front seat controls are mounted in the back seat. The Variable Stability System (VSS) commands symmetric and asymmetric horizontal tail movement, symmetric and asymmetric flaperon movement, rudder and throttle control. The only surfaces not controlled by the VSS are the leading edge flaps and speed brakes. Other modifications included in the VISTA configuration include heavyweight landing gear and a larger capacity hydraulic pump and lines to accommodate the increased surface motions needed to simulate other aircraft. The program objectives itself included the demonstration of the tactical utility of thrust vectoring in close-in air combat and in the use of integrated control of thrust vectoring in flight. The aircraft has demonstrated a steady angle of attack of as much as 86 degrees and a transient angle of attack of up to 180 degrees. In other words, the aircraft can fly BACKWARDS for a brief time. Thrust vectoring provides a significant advantage in terms of bringing armament to bear on a threat more quickly and in avoiding the risk of departure from controlled flight during violent maneuvers. However, the use of really high AoA maneuvers should only be a last-ditch operation in aerial combat in view of the increased vulnerability of the aircraft when it is in a low-energy state. During 2019 the flag-ship of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School received a new paint scheme as can be seen at the beginning of this page, from the photos recently released by the www.theaviationgeekclub.com. (Copyright Achilles Sakis and Tom Cooper, further info www.F-16.net)
Achilles was then promoted to Area Attack Branch Chief of Eglin’s Munitions Test Division. There he led a dynamic test team, directing flight test for more than 20 different weapon test programs on F-16, F-15 and A-10 aircraft including the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD). He trained, mentored, supervised and guided the work of several young test engineers. He also led a successful and critical deployed flight test at both Edwards AFB and China Lake, California for the Joint Programmable Fuze program, and orchestrated the first successful flight tests of the newly redesigned fuze. After gaining experience as a flight test engineer on multiple programs and a Branch Chief supervising other test engineers, Achilles was offered a position to return to the USAF Test Pilot School as a flight test instructor. He was selected to lead the Test Pilot School’s Performance branch. There Achilles taught flight test theory, techniques, and procedures and trained over 130 of USAF’s best pilots and test engineers to evaluate the latest research, prototype, and production aerospace vehicles, systems, and weapons. One of his accomplishments while on staff involved piloting an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in a first-ever air-to-air shoot-down in Edwards Air Force Base’s 50-year history. Near the end of his assignment at Edwards, Achilles met and married his wife, Georgia Sakis (née Gianaris). As luck would have it, Achilles was able to get assigned to NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center #7 (CAOC 7), a unit consisting of 90 multinational airmen, in Larissa, Greece. Georgia’s parents had also emigrated to the United States from Greece. Achilles and Georgia both have relatives still living in Greece, so getting the assignment to Greece was “like winning the lottery” for them both. Their daughter Harriet (Haralambia) was born in Larissa two years later. At CAOC 7, Achilles was assigned as Deputy Chief of Training, Exercises and Mission Analysis. There he served as the unit’s focal point for the developing, planning and executing all exercises and training for the CAOC. He conducted mission analysis, evaluated all live and synthetic training, and integrated and documented lessons learned. He guided the unit through NATO Reaction Force (NRF) training, culminating in unit’s NRF certification for 2010. The certification required successful completion of 6 major multinational exercises and with over 3200 planned missions. He also led the Joint Force Air Component Command (JFACC) Battle Staff Training exercise, involving 2 Headquarters, earning "Outstanding" accolades personally from the JFACC US 3-star General. Achilles’ next assignment to Eglin AFB, Florida came in the fall of 2010, and he moved his family back to the United States. He was assigned as Director of Operations of the USAF Seek Eagle Office at Eglin, the 175-person group responsible for proving aircraft-to-weapon compatibility and certification. This testing and analysis are done to ensure that weapons can be safely carried and launched or dropped from the aircraft. There Achilles directed 5 divisions conducting stores compatibility engineering and cleared over 350 new test and combat weapon configurations, including the low collateral damage Joint Directed Attack (JDAM) and F-16 Small Diameter Bomb.
Top: “Sparky” and “Chili” (Achilles), dropping a live Sensor Fuzed Weapon from the F-16 on a test range on a column of target tanks. The tail consists of a white tail band with red diamond shapes in it and the wing logo just underneath it. The 'ET' tail code stands for Eglin Test and is situated in the center of the tail with the serial beneath it. Since 1999 the aircraft sometimes also carry the 39th FLTS blue diamonds. Since the disbandment of the 39th FLTS, some 40th aircraft are seen with the blue diamonds in the white tail band instead of the original red ones. Both are used in conjunction with each other. Besides this, the unit also flies with versions of the F-15 aircraft making it a composite test squadron all together. Most weapons that have to be tested on the F-16 have to be tested on the F-15 as well. So both programs run mostly simultaneous. As long as the F-16 remains in front line service it is likely this squadron will continue F-16 operations. There have been no announcements if this squadron will continue when the F-35 enters front line service. (Copyright Achilles Sakis & further information by http://www.f-16.net)
Center: A left banking turn over the clouds. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Bottom: A US Navy TPS instructor, along with Achilles and one of his TPS classmates after a flight in the UH-60 Helicopter during a class field trip to the Navy TPS. The United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS), located at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Maryland, provides instruction to experienced United States Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and foreign military experimental test pilots, flight test engineers, and flight test flight officers in the processes and techniques of aircraft and systems testing and evaluation.
(Copyright Achilles Sakis & further information by Wikipedia)
Above: While at stationed Edwards, Achilles and test pilot “DJ” were sent across the country on a deployment in the F-16 to provide safety chase during multiple high-speed test flights of the C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft. During one of the test flights, Achilles and “DJ” prevented a potentially catastrophic wing structural failure of the C-5 aircraft in flight by noticing and calling out flutter that was occurring on the wing tip. Achilles implored the C-5 test team’s management to conduct a post-flight inspection which revealed multiple failed spars in the wingtip. The C-5 test program was immediately halted pending a structural redesign. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Achilles final assignment before retirement took him back to the cockpit as the Senior Flight Test Engineer for the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin AFB. He was excited to be able to climb back into the F-16 cockpit after concurrent non-flying assignments at CAOC 7 and Seek Eagle. There he shepherded over 30 test projects utilizing F-15, F-16, A-10, Special Ops & UAV platforms, providing his expertise in the current techniques and practices for testing of aircraft and weapon systems. He trained, mentored and supervised 19 test engineers and provided them guidance. He reviewed their flight test plans and flight cards and provided guidance to the young test engineers in order to identify possible safety hazards. He guided the F-16 Landing Gear Load Survey Test, which consisted of over 600 test points on 36 flights. Data from the testing was used to create a fatigue-life model for the F-16 landing gear. This model is being used to predict F-16 landing gear life and replacement cycles, as the F-16 aircraft service life is extended to 8,000 hours. During his busy schedule, Achilles also found time to be one of the session chairmen for 2013 Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE) International Symposium in Fort Worth, Texas and SFTE Emerald Coast Chapter President (2014). Achilles took his last flight in the F-16 in June 2014, at the age of 50, and retired from the US Air Force in October 2014. After serving 20 years in the US Air Force, Achilles got a call from Google to come work for them. Achilles was a Flight Test Director and Experimental Drone Flight Test Pilot for Google "X" Project Wing, Google’s unmanned package delivery system. There he got to work with Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google, as Sergey had a keen interest in the success of project Wing. He also got to routinely brief both Sergey and Larry Page, the other co-founder of Google on the status of the project as they walked through the flight lab, checking on project’s progress. At Google, Achilles planned, directed and flew developmental unmanned aircraft prototypes and evaluated their performance. He also conducted safety and technical test planning, execution, and reporting. Achilles now lives in Florida with his wife Georgia and daughter Harriet. He is self-employed as a flight test technical consultant. His son Nikolas is in his senior year in the US Air Force ROTC program at Washington State University and will graduate and be commissioned in the US Air Force in May 2019.
Top: Chasing after an F-15 at Mach 1.4 with an F-16 at 46,0000 feet during a Sniper pod test. Note the F-15’s huge contrail over the breathtaking puffy clouds. We hit the tanker twice during this mission.
“The visible shock wave from the F-15 was an awesome sight and the clouds were incredible!”
Bottom: Self-portrait of the Greek American flight test engineer, Achilles Sakis, while flying an F-16 belonging to United States Test Pilots School.
(Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Left Above: As fate would have it, one of Achilles’ classmates at USAF Test Pilot School was Major Ioannis Tsolekas, the first Greek fighter pilot ever to attend USAF TPS. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Left Below: Achilles with Major Ioannis Tsolekas and General Chuck Yeager (USAF retired) (center), the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Right, Both - As part of a 4-ship of T-38 jets practicing our formation flying maneuvers. Achilles and Maj 'Kook' Koukourikos were the 'Greek Connection' in Cobra 3 along with Cobra 1, 2 and 4. The fourth plane, Cobra 4, positioned off the right wing, is not visible in the pictures (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Various photos from Achilles Sakis last flight and retirement ceremony. During his last assignment at Edwards, Achilles was honored to have his name stenciled on Eglin F-16 tail #173 as can be seen in the opening photos of this article. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
MEMORABLE EVENTS & FLIGHTS
1. Passed the Defense Language Institute test in Greek and received additional monthly pay for foreign language proficiency for Greek language skills. “Thanks to my parents, Sotiria and George, for speaking Greek in the house while I was growing up!”
2. Flew as safety chase in the F-16 following the F-22 Raptor aircraft. Personally flew most of the flight to Marietta GA. We chased the F-22 through supersonic 40K points. The AC cooling system failed in our F-16 leading to a burning avionics smell and smoke and fumes in the cockpit, so we had to knock it off early and return to base!
3. Enjoying cocktails at the home of the US Ambassador to Greece, the Honorable Robert Burns, while attending the Defendory show in Athens.
4. Dropped my pencil by mistake and fodded the cockpit while flying with “DJ” in the T-38. We had to roll inverted and push for negative g’s to try and find it. No luck! I had to buy the maintenance crew a case of their favorite beverage after landing and they had to remove the ejection seat to find it, a 5-hour operation!
5. Flew in the F/A-18F Super Hornet with a Navy pilot at China Lake. He did a carrier break turn at 7.2 gs and it felt like my neck was going to snap. We hit 35 degrees Angle of Attack.
6. Flew with “Razor”, a Navy pilot, while he pushed all the limits in the T-38. Snapped 4g turns in the pattern at the end of the flight while turning from base to final.
7. Flew with the Special Operations Forces in their MH-53 at Hurlburt Field. Shooting the .50 caliber machine gun off the open rear deck and landing in a postage stamp sized fields surrounded by trees. We were flying very low over the water with the back door open while we hung on by our straps.
8. Flew the Impala MB-326 with the Italian test pilots in Italy at Pratica Di Mare Air Base, near Rome. Got to fly several inverted and upright spins over the water.
9. Flew the F-16 Departure demonstration which included deep stalls and pitch rocking to recover using the Manual Pitch Override (MPO) switch. An exciting flight!
10. Flew in the back of the KC-135Q tanker aircraft with the boom operator during an SR-71 Blackbird refueling mission over Edwards AFB. Not long after this, the last SR-71 aircraft flew for the very last time before they retired all the SR-71 aircraft. The SR-71 was in afterburner as he was taking fuel and the flames were very visible, as the second refueling was at night. The SR-71 then climbed and disappeared, looking like a tiny star in the dark of night.
11. Flew in the F-16 during intercepts at night. Fiery torch shooting out the back of the aircraft in a full burner on takeoff in the black of the night!! No ground in sight as we flew above the cloud deck at night. Got to fly in IFR conditions on the way back to Eglin! "Perp" and I blasted toward the sky in our F-16 today... We did a full afterburner takeoff and rocketed up to 30,000 feet in only 1 minute and 55 seconds! Then a supersonic run with me on the stick out to Mach 1.5! I'm sure the sonic boom we made over Edwards must have been a loud one! We followed that up with a couple simulated pop attacks on the Cal City water tank - awesome! After that, we did some aerobatics which included several loops and rolls (3 in a row - not for pilots with squeamish stomachs!) Mine were not as crisp and clean as Perps but they still must have looked pretty cool from the ground. We followed this up with some touch and go landings at Edwards. I can't believe I get paid to do this!”
12. Flew in the F-15E with "Crack” in the Skull/Devil Wars. There were 15 aircraft (all F-15s and F-16s) waiting to take runway - an awesome sight! After the mission, we did an arresting cable engagement to recertify the arresting cable. Still speeding down the runway, we caught the cable with the hook at 95 knots. As a precaution, four fire trucks and lots of other support folks raced up to us when we came to rest. Then we got towed back to our parking spot with the canopy up. Cool!
13. Georgia and I were lucky enough to attend a function given by the US Ambassador to Greece, Daniel Speckhard, (now former Ambassador) at his residence in Athens. We were all socializing with the other invited guests when I got separated from Georgia. When I finally found Georgia she was being held up by Ambassador Speckhard. It turns out that the Ambassador had seen her ready to faint, as she was pregnant, and he immediately sprang into action and caught her! When I finally caught up with her she was having a cold drink and chatting with the Ambassador!
Right from Top to Bottom
1. Achilles built model airplanes and model rockets as a kid and routinely put on flight demonstrations for the other kids in the neighborhood.
2. Achilles, joined by his parents George and Sotiria, accepting the Astronaut’s Memorial Scholarship, as presented by Stanley Kalemaris, a representative of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and fellow Greek American.
3. Photo: Achilles (center) and his co-workers, while he worked at Reflectone Inc., as a flight dynamics and propulsion software engineer, writing software to operate full-motion flight simulators
4. Taking some time to enjoy life at a Lefteris Pantazis concert in Los Angeles, California during an assignment at Edwards AFB. Who said that hardworking officers shouldn't relax from their duties? Of course, this is relaxing Greek style, meaning singing and dancing until your strength gives up.
(Copyright All by Achilles Sakis)
Above: Achilles flying and shooting with the .50 cal machine gun in the MH-53 helicopter used by the Special Ops Forces. The US Air Force ordered HH-53B and HH-53C variants for Search and Rescue units and developed the MH-53J Pave Low version for Special Operations missions. The Pave Low's mission was low-level, long-range, undetected penetration into denied areas, day or night, in adverse weather, for infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces. Pave Lows often work in conjunction with MC-130H Combat Talon for navigation, communications, and combat support, and with MC-130P Combat Shadow for in-flight refueling. The large green airframe of the HH-53B earned it the nickname "Super Jolly Green Giant". This name is a reference to the smaller HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant", a stretched variant of the H-3 Sea King, used in the Vietnam War for combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) operations. (Copyright Achilles Sakis, further information by Wikipedia)
Left & Center: During his time at Edwards the film production company for the movie 'Iron Man', starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard, came to Edwards AFB looking to film parts of the movie there and for extras to appear in the movie. The producers wanted to use real US Air Force personnel in the movie. Achilles was cast as an extra wearing an Iraqi Colonel uniform and appears in the film in a couple of scenes with Robert Downey Jr. On the left photo, Achilles in Iraqi Colonel uniform for the movie. In the center, Achilles and actor Terrence Howard, who starred in the Iron Man movie, during his visit to USAF Test Pilot School. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Right: Achilles meeting Astronaut Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander, in the halls of USAF Test Pilot School. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Behind a successful man, there is also a strong woman which naturally leads to a great family. Georgia Giannaris is also of Greek heritage and Achilles assignment to NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center #7 (CAOC 7) in Larisa, Greece was the best transfer he ever had, considering that they are both Greeks and have many relatives here. Their daughter Harriet (Haralambia) was born in Larissa two years later. Above Left - Georgia, the beautiful bride, and Achilles, on their wedding day. Above Center - Georgia, Achilles and their daughter, Harriet, on the day of Achilles’ final F-16 flight. Above Right - Georgia, and Achilles, meeting Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. (Copyright Achilles Sakis)
Above Left: Flight testing Google X Project Wing drones along with Sergey Brin (center), Co-Founder of Google, and his co-workers. Above Center: Achilles flying proof of concept test aircraft.
Above Right - Achilles directing a flight test of the Google drones.
(Copyright All by Achilles Sakis)
I would like to special thanks to Achilles Sakis for letting us present him to the Greek public, Greeks worldwide and friends from all over the world. I hope that I will meet him in person soon in our beautiful country.