HomeNewsArticle Display

First two enlisted pilots complete solo flights

Master Sgts. Alex and Mike, 1st Flying Training Squadron Remotely Piloted Aircraft Initial Flight Training student, pose after completing an Air Force first enlisted solo flight on a Diamond DA-20 at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo, Colorado Nov. 3, 2016. Today the first enlisted pilot class students took their first solo flight instruction during the 1st FTS training. RPA IFT includes 41 hours of classroom training and 21 hours of pilot training and officer development. (U.S. Air Force digital image by Staff Sgt. Cory Payne)

Master Sgts. Alex and Mike, 1st Flying Training Squadron Remotely Piloted Aircraft Initial Flight Training students, stand in front of a DA-20 Katana after completing an Air Force first enlisted solo flight in the DA-20 at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Colo., Nov. 3, 2016. The first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class students took their first solo flight instruction during the 1st FTS training. RPA IFT includes 41 hours of classroom training and 21 hours of pilot training and officer development. (U.S. Air Force digital image/Staff Sgt. Cory Payne)

U. S. Air Force Master Sgt. Alex, a student in the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, takes off in a DA-20 Katana to become one of the first enlisted Airmen in six decades to complete solo flights during Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo, Colorado, Nov. 3, 2016. Air Force officials selected 12 active-duty Airmen for EPIC.  After IFT completion, each EPIC student will progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and the Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.  The entire training program spans almost a full year.   (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory Payne)

Master Sgt. Alex, a student in the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, takes off in a DA-20 Katana to become one of the first enlisted Airmen in six decades to complete solo flights during Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Colo., Nov. 3, 2016. Air Force officials selected 12 active-duty Airmen for EPIC. After IFT completion, each EPIC student will progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and the Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., The entire training program spans almost a full year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cory Payne)

U. S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mike, a student in the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, takes off in a DA-20 Katana to become the first enlisted Airmen in six decades to complete solo flights during Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo, Colorado, Nov. 3, 2016. The Air Force announced on Dec. 17, 2015, the initiative to train enlisted RPA pilots for RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne/Released)

Master Sgt. Mike, a student in the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, takes off in a DA-20 Katana to become the first enlisted Airmen in six decades to complete solo flights during Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Colo., Nov. 3, 2016. The Air Force announced on Dec. 17, 2015, the initiative to train enlisted RPA pilots for RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne)

PUEBLO, Colo. (AFNS) -- Two Air Force master sergeants became the first enlisted Airmen in six decades to complete solo flights during Initial Flight Training at the 1st Flying Training Squadron Nov. 3.

Both soloed in a DA-20 Katana at Pueblo Memorial Airport as part of the Air Force’s IFT program, which is mandatory for all manned aircraft pilots, combat systems officers and remotely piloted aircraft pilots.

The Air Force announced on Dec. 17, 2015, the initiative to train enlisted RPA pilots for RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations. As a result, the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class began Oct. 12 with four students training alongside 20 recently commissioned officers.

“The integration of enlisted RPA pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk operations is part of a broader effort to meet the continual RPA demands of combatant commanders in the field, ensuring they are provided with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in their areas of responsibilities worldwide,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

Air Force officials selected 12 active-duty Airmen for EPIC. After IFT completion, each EPIC student will progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and the Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California. The entire training program spans almost a full year.

Solo flights by enlisted pilots are relatively rare in U.S. military history. In 1912, one of the first two pilots in the Army Air Corps was a corporal. Thousands of enlisted pilots were trained and served in the military throughout World Wars I and II, including future retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager. The Air Force’s Cadet Aviation Program saw enlisted Airmen become commissioned officers upon completion, ending in 1961.

“It’s a great opportunity that we’re getting enlisted pilots back into the full force,” said Master Sgt. Mike, the first EPIC student to fly solo. Mike, a 17-year veteran with extensive flying experience, started his Air Force career in security forces and most recently served as a maintainer.

“There are a lot of opportunities that could become available to enlisted Airmen,” Mike said. “If there is something you really want, it’s achievable. You just have to put in the effort.”

EPIC’s second solo flyer, Master Sgt. Alex, had the determination Mike talked about, but no previous flight training.

“If you would have asked me if I was going to be a pilot when I was an airman first class, I would have told you no,” Alex said after he completed his 20-minute flight. “I would never have thought that possible.”

Alex said that when he was alone in the plane’s cockpit he relied on his checklist and the voice of his instructor pilot playing over and over in his mind.

“I’m the type of guy who, if someone doesn’t like an idea and says ‘that’s not going to work’ and I think it’s a good idea, I’m willing to be the guy who says ‘that’s a challenge, let’s go see if I can do this.’”

Alex said he initially wondered why IFT was so tough on students.

“Now, I understand. Instructors are seeing if you can handle the stress of being able to make your radio calls on time, maintain proper altitude, contacting all your approaches and departures, hitting the right waypoints, getting to where you need to go,” Alex said. “They put you in a lot of stressful situations so that when you get out there you can handle it.”

Alex was relieved to have the solo flight behind him but he isn’t ready to celebrate, despite the excitement of co-workers, his senior leaders and family back at home.

“I was excited that I soloed, but I have to maintain focus. This is not over. I’ve got to keep going and make sure that I get completely through the program,” Alex said.

(Editor’s note: Only first names were given because the Air Force limits disclosure of identifying information to first names for all RPA pilots and sensor operators throughout their careers. One of the first four EPIC students was released from training for medical reasons.)

Engage

Twitter
Join us in discovering which will be the #SparkTank2021 winning #InnovativeAF idea at 10 A.M. EST! #vAWS2021https://t.co/8OUNL8EceJ
Twitter
#SparkTank2021 is today! Meet another #InnovativeAF team competing! #vAWS2021 https://t.co/k7LZQEfUih
Twitter
An F-15E Strike Eagle demonstrates the @48FighterWing's combat readiness. #DYK The Eagle's air superiority is achie… https://t.co/4BnEx1OKT5
Twitter
.@AFGlobalStrike Airmen launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test r… https://t.co/tTJjzdWuaQ
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: The #KC46 and #ABMS positively contribute to the capabilities we need, now and into the future, and represent leaps forwa…
Twitter
.@cmsaf_official on leading in a time of change during the 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium. #vAWS2021https://t.co/Khyl8fufNX
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Ummm, okay. 🤨 This is exactly the kind of stuff we’ve got to get after, folks. Design implementation matters. Make…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Terrific call today with my @TheRSAF counterpart Maj. Gen. Kelvin Khong. Singapore is one of our strongest bilateral part…
Twitter
RT @SpaceForceDoD: @SpaceForceCSO Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond and Astrophysicist @neiltyson will engage in a fireside chat today at 10 a.m.…
Twitter
#SEAC4 Ramón "CZ" Colón-López, @cmsaf_official JoAnne Bass & CMSgt of @SpaceForceDoD Roger A. Towberman discuss lea… https://t.co/llhvCm6MIv
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr discussed "Accelerate Change or Lose" during a fireside chat with @MEaglen at the 2021 Virtual Aeros… https://t.co/22jfLvySOE
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr discusses how the #USAF is working to #AccelerateChange at the 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Sympos… https://t.co/sW3megZoiS
Twitter
RT @SpaceForceDoD: Don't miss @SpaceForceCSO Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond's fireside chat with @neiltyson Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. EST during #vAWS
Twitter
RT @PACAF: #DYK: We have a program designed to reduce risk to aircrews/aircraft & surrounding community by reducing the risk of bird strike…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Acting SecAF Roth & @GenCQBrownJr flew on a #KC46 with @AirMobilityCmd #Airmen this week to learn more about the @USAirF
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,329,963
Follow Us