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ENJJPT student selected for new track to U-2 pilot program

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Col. Russell Driggers, 80th Flying Training Wing commander, center, Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander, left, and Col. Andrew Werner, 9th Operations Group commander, pose for a picture in front of a T-38 Talon after Maymi and Werner arrived from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., to attend Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot program drop night. For the first time in its history, an ENJJPT student was selected for the newly established First Assignment Companion Trainer program, which could eventually lead them to become a U-2 Dragon Lady pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert L. McIlrath)

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U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014. TU-2S are trainer aircraft used to gain proficiency before pilots deploy for operational missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings/Released)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

For the first time in the 35-plus year history of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, a U.S. student from the program has been selected to begin a new training track that could land them in the U-2 Dragon Lady.

Traditionally, pilots have had to spend at least six years in a different aircraft before being eligible to apply for the U-2 pipeline. The 9th Reconnaissance Wing recently announced a new track to get pilots into the reconnaissance aircraft a little quicker through the First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program.

Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 9th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, arrived at Sheppard AFB Oct. 5, 2018, to announce the first undergraduate pilot training graduate selected for the trajectory-changing program. The announcement will happen during the 80th Flying Training Wing’s assignment night at Sheppard.

“This program (ENJJPT) was ideal to pull a potential U-2 pilot out of because they breed fighter pilots from the beginning,” he said. “Every student here flies the T-38 during this training, and that’s a big part of what they will be doing for two years in the pipeline.”

In addition to the ENJJPT pilot, another UPT graduate will be selected from another flying training wing.

FACT was designed to broaden the diversity of the applicant pool for the U-2 and will operates similar to First Assignment Instructor Pilot assignments. The selected student will first report to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, to attend T-38 Pilot Instructor Training course before going to Beale AFB, California, where they will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Training Program for two years.

Once the experience and requirements as an instructor pilot are met, the candidate will attend a two-week interview process. If selected, the candidate will begin Basic Qualification Training.

“This is a big win for us,” said Col. Russell Driggers, 80th Flying Training Wing commander. “We now have a link to potentially begin creating a young cadre of U-2 pilots.”

The U-2 is a single-seat, high-altitude, near-space reconnaissance aircraft that can carry a variety of sensors and cameras.