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F-15E pilot credits aero clubs for Air Force career

1st. Lt. Andy Schloemer's career flying high

Before he became an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, 1st. Lt. Andy Schloemer gained experience on the T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKALND, Texas (AFNS) -- First 1st Lt. Andy Schloemer’s Air Force career has taken off, thanks to the Air Force Aero Club.

“Airmen should definitely take advantage of aero clubs,” said Schloemer, an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot with the 494th Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England. “The biggest benefit of the aero club is getting quality flight experience with a program designed to support Airmen the best way possible.”

Schloemer, a Cincinnati native, earned his private pilot’s license while he was stationed as a UH-1 Huey helicopter flight engineer with the 374th Operations Group at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The 1,100 flight hours he amassed, along with the training at the Yokota Aero Club under club manager Victor Arzuaga and his team, were vital in his development.

“The training I received at the Yokota Aero Club set me up for success in my private flying career, as well as my eventual military flying career,” Schloemer said. “One of the biggest things that helped prepare me for my military flying training that is unique to the Yokota Aero Club is the upgrades installed on the aircraft. The advanced avionics suite installed on the aircraft there trained me to interpret more advanced flight instrumentation, so when I transitioned to pilot training with the U.S. Air Force, reading the digital displays was something that was already built into my habit pattern and cross check while flying."

Schloemer completed his bachelor’s degree through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University while earning his private pilot license. He was accepted into officer training school through Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and was later selected to attend Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

The lieutenant gained experience on the T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon and was eventually chosen to fly the F-15E. He graduated from the Strike Eagle Basic Course at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina in July and was stationed at RAF Lakenheath for his first operational tour.

“I tie a lot of my success from my OTS application being competitive to my eventual success through pilot training to having a solid base of aviation knowledge and airmanship that I gained while flying at the Yokota Aero Club,” Schloemer said.

The Air Force Aero Clubs, under the direction of the Air Force Services Activity, have played a significant role in building and sustaining ready and resilient Airmen for almost 70 years. Currently, 16 installations worldwide support aero clubs.

“Members of the aero club are those who want to fly,” said Eric Treland, Air Force Aero Club program manager. “They’re passionate about aviation. It helps them understand the Air Force mission of fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace, and it helps many of them relate directly to their mission.”

Aero clubs are open to active duty, reserve, guard and retired military members and their families; Defense Department of Defense civilians; and Civil Air Patrol members.

Members without flight experience can earn a private pilot certificate in as few as six to seven months, based on time commitment, Treland said. Members will pilot light general aviation aircraft.

Training is divided into ground and flight school. Members can complete the ground school in the classroom or online. The private pilot flight school consists of a minimum of 35 hours of flight training, 20 hours with an instructor and 15 hours solo.

Aero clubs are nonappropriated fund activities and generate revenue to support themselves.

To find out if your installation offers an aero club, visit MyAirForceLife.com.