SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Undergraduate pilot training students in the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program spend more than a year learning how to fly aircraft for more than a year, all in anticipation of becoming combat pilots.
Rarely do they see an operational combat aircraft – fighter or bomber – until they graduate, but an opportunity arose May 11, 2018, during Combat Air Force Career Day at Sheppard AFB.
German air force Col. Bernhard Hey, 80th Operations Group commander, said while having dreams and goals of flying is one thing, reaching out and touching the aircraft is something different.
“The CAF Day not only represented ENJJPT students with a chance to look at the aircraft they would like to fly, but also gave them the opportunity to interact with the aircrews that flew the aircraft in,” he said.
While not every combat aircraft if the Air Force inventory made an appearance, students were able to get an up close view of an F-22 Raptor, an AT-38, two F-15E Strike Eagles and four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Hey said students gained insight into each airframe’s mission as well as the technology, demands and expectations fighter units have of new pilots.
In addition to the up-close view, students also received briefings from pilots on the capabilities of each aircraft.
“These insights are absolutely vital when making career decisions for the young aviators,” he said.
CAF Day was a common occurrence a few years ago before budget cuts and sequestration resulted in the Air Force cutting costs, including postponing air shows and other events. Now that the defense budget has reversed course, the 80th FTW was able to bring back the event that drew aviator and aircraft closer.