Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Child becomes Pilot-for-a-Day

by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Madelyn Ray waves hello to an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot while visiting Osan Air Base's traffic control tower Feb. 17, 2012. Madelyn is an honorary Pilot-for-a-Day, which consisted of touring the flightline and learning about the combat capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10. Madelyn toured two fighter squadrons and the air traffic control tower, and flew in a simulator as part of her day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres) Hi-res

Note: Madelyn wears the 25th Fighter Squadron patch.

2/21/2012 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Standing just over 4 feet tall, Madelyn Ray walks through the fighter squadron with a big smile as she prepares herself to become an honorary Pilot-for-a-Day here Feb. 17.

Touring two fighter squadrons and an air traffic control tower, and shooting the enemy in the flight simulator where she was eluded to as a "natural" were all a part of her big day as a flyer.

For her father, Master Sgt. Jerry Ray, 51st Civil Engineering Squadron Operations Management NCO in charge, his hopes are for her to take back the sense of responsibility Air Force members carry every day and to show her a part of the base not everyone gets to travel.

"This is not a part of the base that we see on an everyday basis," he said. "I believe it's a good experience for her to come over and see what our pilots do."

In only its second run, the program here is tailored to motivate school age children who may be struggling in school, which has been successful in the past, explained 1st Lt. Lance Tucker, 36th Fighter Squadron scheduler.

"We hope that it inspires them to realize that their goals could be limitless, and they can do whatever they put their mind to," he said. "The teachers from our last Pilot-for-a-Day said that his grades really turned around, especially in math, which is the class he was struggling in. So our goal is to give kids inspiration to do better in school."

Tucker worked with 1st Lt. Erik Gonsalvez, from the 25th Fighter Squadron, to put together the day-long program where the children receive their own flight suits, squadron patches and their own set of pilot wings.

Her tour consisted of learning to fly from a flight simulator; and viewing the cockpits of an A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 25th FS, and an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 36th FS. Her visit also allowed her to watch A-10s take off and land from Osan's air traffic control tower, where a wave to an incoming pilot landed her a return "wiggle-waggle" from the Thunderbolt.

With two impressive aircraft at her reach, her favorite plane the A-10 left an impression, but it was the 36th FS's motto that made her want to change her name.

"My new name is going to be 'Harumph,'" said Madelyn. "I thought it was pretty awesome I got to do this. It's kind of scary with how big the planes are and to see how high they can go. I feel kind of happy about all the stuff I've learned, and I can't wait to tell my class about everything."

The 10-year-old was picked from her 4th grade class after her name was submitted in a drawing.

"I was excited, kind of nervous and really happy that I got chosen," she said.

However, being a pilot is going to take a back seat for now as she continues to go to school and work on cheerleading, even though Tucker feels she is well on her way.

1st Lt. Lance Tucker, 36th Fighter Squadron scheduler, shows Madelyn Ray around the A-10 Thunderbolt II during Osan's Pilot-for-a-Day program Feb. 17, 2012. Madelyn toured two fighter squadrons and an air traffic control tower, and flew in a simulator as part of her day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres) Hi-res


1 comment:

  1. Lt. Erik "Speedy" Gonsalvez is a great guy. Glad to see him anytime he steps to my jet.