Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pilot For A Day Affords Child Opportunity to Learn about Aviation

by Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Romero
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/9/2010 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Markino Mctaggrait, a 10-year-old Arizonan suffering from sickle cell disease, toured the base Jan. 29 to learn more about aviation through the Pilot for a Day program.

The purpose of the program is to provide children with illnesses an enjoyable day completely devoted to them and their interest in aviation. To make his day more special, Markino received his own flight suit, complete with a personalized name tag, to wear during the day.

Markino and his family were offered the opportunity to participate in the program through a partnership with Tucson's University Medical Center, where Markino routinely receives treatment for his condition.

Markino brought his mother, Enid, and two family friends, Corinna Corrino and Alex Ramirez, to share in the day's events.

"This program is just what he needed at this time," said Mrs. Mctaggrait. "Every day is a new day, and some are good days and some are not as great."

Markino's tour began by meeting his host pilot Maj. James Miller, an A-10 instructor pilot assigned to the 355th Training Squadron.

The boy then received his honorary flight suit, to which he was able to affix real squadron patches. He also held up his right hand and was "administered an oath" to accept the duties and responsibilities of a pilot for the day.

Shortly afterward, Markino visited the base's fire department and had the chance to discharge a fire hose. He also visited static displays of an A-10, HC-130, and HH-60 aircraft.

The family enjoyed lunch with the 357th Fighter Squadron before heading over to fly in an A-10 simulator.

"The HH-60 and the A-10 simulator were my favorite part," Markino said. "And this year I want to be a pilot for Halloween."

The tour ended with a visit to the runway tower, where Markino and his guests had an up-close look at jets taking off and landing.

"I had a great time showing Markino, his family, and friends what we do here at D-M to support the Air Force mission," Major Miller said. "It was very rewarding see the bigger-than-life smiles on all of their faces."

Markino and his guests agreed that the day was unforgettable.

"This is a day he and I will never forget. There is no way to repay you for all this. Thank you for letting us come to the base to participate," said Mrs. Mctaggrait.

The Pilot for a Day program originated at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in 1994 and has since been implemented at several other Air Force bases. Davis-Monthan hosted its first program participant in August 2000, and program coordinators intend to continue conducting one D-M visit per month.

Maj. James Miller, an A-10 instructor pilot assigned to the 355th Training Squadron, helps Markino Mctaggrait fly the A-10 simulator during the Pilot for a Day program here January 29, 2010. This program is designed for children with serious illnesses and helps them enjoy a day totally devoted to them and their interest in aviation. Markino had a chance to fly in an A-10 simulator, see the base's fire department, aircraft static displays and meet members of the U.S. Air Force. Major Miller was the day's host pilot. (U.S. Air Force by Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Romero)


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