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Teen becomes 'Pilot for a Day' at Fairchild

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- It isn't every day a 13-year-old boy gets to pilot a KC-135 Stratotanker destined from Washington for Hawaii, but one teen flew the mission May 3 as Fairchild Air Force Airmen helped one local youth become a Pilot for a Day.

Dylan Nickerson experienced a day in the life of a pilot with the coordination between the members of the 509th Weapons Squadron and the Candlelighters of the Inland Northwest, a chapter of the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation that aids young cancer patients and their families.

Dylan was met at Fairchild AFB's gate by Col. Scott Hanson, the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, and Maj. Brian Eberling, a 509th WPS instructor pilot and combined operations phase manager.

"This was the 509th's first ever Pilot for a Day event," Major Eberling said.

Dylan and his family had the opportunity to tour a number of base facilities during their visit including the flightline, control tower, tower control simulator, the flight safety simulator and a static display of the KC-135. The whole Nickerson family took part in the day including his father, Bruce; his mother, Merri; brothers Cody, 17, and Jacob, 8; and his 6-year-old sister, Shayna.

"He's really into these sorts of things," Dylan's mother said. "He's always watching the war and military movies."

During the simulated flight, Major Eberling showed Dylan the basics of flying the simulator while Dylan's family watched as he maneuvered the virtual plane.

The flight simulator was the best part, Dylan said.

Dylan flew over downtown Spokane and the Hawaiian islands, took off and landed the aircraft, performed a few barrel rolls, and flew in a variety of weather conditions on the virtual aircraft. He concluded his flying experience with a successful landing at the computer-generated Fairchild AFB runway, then gave his father and brother an opportunity to fly the simulator.

"I think this was one of the most personally satisfying days in my Air Force career," the major said.

After the flight simulator, Major Eberling led the Nickerson family to a KC-135 hangar to view an aircraft. The day ended as Dylan was given his own pilot wings.

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