Saturday, July 9, 2011

Local Boy becomes June Pilot for a Day

by Airman 1st Class Jerilyn Quintanilla
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/6/2011 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Seven-year-old Michael Castillo toured the base June 24, as a participant in the Pilot for a Day Program.

The purpose of the program is to give local children with illnesses an enjoyable day completely devoted to them and their interest in aviation.

Accompanying Michael were his grandparents, Gilbert and Maria Castillo, and cousins Angel, 12, and Lanysa, 9.

Michael's day began by meeting his host pilot, Capt. Aaron "Scar" Celusta, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 357th Fighter Squadron, at the visitors' center. Captain Celusta escorted Michael and his family to the 357th FS where he presented Michael with his very own flight suit, complete with a personalized name tag and squadron patches.

Once suited up, Michael and his family listened to a pilot briefing, toured the squadron and checked out life support gear.

After finishing up at the 357th FS, Captain Celusta took Michael and his family on a tour of the base fire department, where he rode in a fire truck and saw the fire hose in action.

From there, Michael and his family took a trip to the flightline where he saw an A-10 static display. Michael then went from one static display to another, this time to see the HC-130 where they made their way to the cockpit.

Following his tours of the statics Michael got the inside scoop at the 48th Rescue Squadron. Home to the Pararescuemen, Michael toured the squadron getting a rare glimpse of the different tools the PJ's use to complete their mission of combat search and rescue, ranging from diving gear, the Jaws of Life, a boat, and a parachute.

Their next stop was back to the squadron for lunch, during which Captain Celusta presented a few gifts to Michael. He received a 357th FS t-shirt, and a few photos of the A-10 signed by the pilots. The group then headed to the 355th Operations Group, where they got to experience an A-10 simulator, a system that replicates flying the aircraft over a virtual map as realistically as possible.

After the simulator, they headed off to the air traffic control tower where the group got a bird's eye view of the entire base and flight line. The air traffic controllers also presented Michael with an occupational badge and certificate making him an honorary air traffic controller.

The last stop of the day was to the 355th Security Forces Squadron military working dog unit where Staff Sgt. Michael Ruiz, his military working dog Emor and Staff Sgt. Aaron Escalante put on a demonstration for Michael and his family.

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.

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -Capt. Aaron Celusta, a pilot assigned to the 357th Fighter Squadron, explains the different functions of his helmet to Pilot for a Day participant Michael Castillo at the 355th Operations Group here June 24. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla) Hi-res

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -Capt. Aaron Celusta, a pilot assigned to the 357th Fighter Squadron, presents Pilot for a Day participant, Michael Castillo, with a squadron t-shirt here June 24. As part of his tour, Michael and his family got to see parts of the base to include the 357th Fighter Squadron, the air traffic control tower, the D-M Fire Department and several aircraft static displays. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jerilyn Quintanilla) Hi-res


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