Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022, the Ukrainian Air Force has played a vital role in defending its country. Its pilots, engineers, operations staff, and many more have given everything to keep their country safe and free. 

Now, as a symbol of the entire corps’ contribution, the AeroTime Global Executive Committee is recognizing Colonel Oleksandr Oksanchenko for his wartime valor and heroism, and for his commitment to Ukraine’s armed forces and aerial defense.  

AeroTime announced it was posthumously awarding Oksanchenko with the first ever AeroTime Lifetime Achievement Award during the Pilot Expo 2022 in Berlin. 

During the opening session of the Pilot Expo, Europe’s largest international pilot recruitment and training event, on May 6, 2022, Richard Stephenson, the chief executive officer of AeroTime, outlined the significance of Oksanchenko’s effort and dedication to Ukraine. 

“I am proud of what AeroTime has done to recognize those people of aviation who make history. Today, I’m more than proud to present AeroTime’s first Lifetime Award to Colonel Oksanchenko, who was an incredibly experienced officer and pilot, and who defended his country in the face of the aggressor,” Stephenson said. “It will be an honor to present this award to the Embassy of Ukraine in Berlin, who has agreed to send it to Kyiv and on to the Colonel’s family.”  

Let’s look at Oksanchenko’s achievements and examine why AeroTime is proud to make him the first recipient of this new lifetime achievement award. 

In 1985, Oleksandr Oksanchenko entered the Kharkiv Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots before joining the military in 1989. He served as a flight instructor and rose to the position of Deputy Commander of the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade based in Myrhorod, central Ukraine. The brigade mainly flies Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jets.  

And it was in the cockpit of this aircraft where Oleksandr Oksanchenko became internationally famous, as he joined the Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker Solo Display Team in 2013. Earning the nickname “Grey Wolf,” he flew during countless airshows over the next decade in his Su-27 number 58, painted in an iconic blue pixel camo livery. During the 2017 edition of the Royal International Air Tattoo, he received the ‘As The Crow Flies’ trophy for the best overall flying demonstration. He won multiple other awards, including the title of best pilot at the Czech International Air Fest 2018 

Oksanchenko was awarded the Order of Danila Galitsky in 2016 for his service during the outbreak of the war in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea. In 2018, he retired from active duty to join the reserves but remained involved as a technical advisor and coach of his successor, Colonel Yuriy Bulavka, with whom he toured one last time in 2019. 

As the Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine, he came out of retirement to defend his homeland. On February 25, 2022, he was shot down over Kyiv. 

Colonel Oksanchenko was conferred the title of Hero of Ukraine by decree of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky for “personal courage and heroism shown in defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, loyalty to the military oath”.    

The AeroTime Lifetime Award was officially handed over to Air Attaché Andrii Dotsenko at the Embassy of Ukraine in Berlin. Oksanchenko’s memory will live on through the aviation industry and his example will inspire and encourage its people, both today and into the future.