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41st FTS shows training pilots is no small task

Airman 1st Class Rachelle Allen, a 14th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, cleans a pilot’s helmet Aug. 8, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Without maintenance the helmets can malfunction, stopping oxygen from going to the pilot and causing hypoxia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Airman 1st Class Rachelle Allen, a 14th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, cleans a pilot’s helmet Aug. 8, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Without maintenance the helmets can malfunction, stopping oxygen from going to the pilot and causing hypoxia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Second Lt. Marcos Marrero-Disla, a 41st Flying Training Wing student pilot, and Capt. Calogero San Filippo, the 41st FTS Assistant Flight Commander, run through a flight plan Aug. 8, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Talking through flight plans and scenarios helps pilots develop solutions and prepare them for creating real flight plans. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Second Lt. Marcos Marrero-Disla, a 41st Flying Training Wing student pilot, and Capt. Calogero San Filippo, the 41st FTS assistant flight commander, run through a flight plan Aug. 8, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Talking through flight plans and scenarios helps pilots develop solutions and prepare them for creating real flight plans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- The 41st Flying Training Squadron’s mission is to train student pilots in basic flying skills academically and operationally with the T-6A Texan II aircraft.

Students begin Phase II of three phases of the year-long pilot training program at the 41st FTS.

Roughly half of all student pilots on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, are trained by 75 instructor pilots from the 41st FTS, under the careful leadership of Lt. Col. Derek Oakley, the squadron commander.

With leadership involved in ensuring the squadron operates as smooth as possible, instructors play a crucial role in training and producing pilots, flying almost 22,000 hours annually.

“There are six flights of student pilots with anywhere from four to eight assigned instructors, but they will also have attached and guest help,” said Lt. Col. Damon Sevier, the 41st FTS assistant director of operations.

Each flight consists of about 15 student and instructors fly with students a majority of their time during training. Instructors brief students pre- and post-flight, letting student know flight patterns and expectations before flight, and critiquing them on their performance and areas of improvement after.

“The average (instructor) will fly roughly two sorties a day, and a lot of the newer (instructors) will fly three eachday,” said Capt. Conor Murphy, a 41st FTS instructor pilot.

Every instructor has a specific role in addition to helping fly aircraft on a daily basis. The flight commander takes care of scheduling and management, while others assist grading or teaching students when they can.

“Everything in this squadron is geared toward student training, which starts off with them knowing nothing; and we’re trying to take them from that to the end of T-6s,” Murphy said. “Everything we do is focused on funneling them to that end goal.”

From the eyes of some instructors, the student’s work ethic and determination is what makes the career more than just a job.

“Every student is super motivated, which is good for us because it makes our job easier because they’re putting in the work,” Murphy said. “It’s cool because they always give you their 110 percent.”

Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training students are focused on their studies, simulator flights and actual flights in the T-6.

“We demand more out of a student from day one than a civilian ever gets,” said Sevier, who was once a civilian airline pilot before joining the Air Force.

However, those demands could not be met if not for Airmen in other shops and specialties that help propel student pilots through the SUPT program. One such element is the 14th Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment shop. These Airmen are responsible for maintaining and cleaning respiration equipment and gear – all which is necessary for the pilot’s safety.

This is no small feat for AFE Airmen. As one of the Air Force’s busiest flying bases, the 41st FTS flies more than 17,200 sorties annually, and a majority of those flights have two pilots.

Though it takes a great team to help create the greatest pilots in the world, it comes down to the students completing their training successfully.

Student pilots work long days and dedicate hours of study time to pass through the 41st FTS, then move on to complete Phase III of the program operating helicopters, such as the UH-1N Huey, at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Students may also be selected to stay at Columbus AFB, training to fly fighter/bomber aircraft and via the T-38 Talon, or the airlift/tanker career path and fly the T-1A Jayhawk.

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