Pilots wanted

Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery Airmen from the 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron push a T-6A Texan II primary trainer from a hanger at Cannon Air Force Base.

By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery: 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Cannon Air Force Base — A couple of Texans rode into New Mexico last week, looking for a few good pilots.

Two instructor pilots and their T-6A Texan II trainers from the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, visited Cannon Aug. 23 and Aug. 24 to provide orientation flights to 27th Fighter Wing pilots. The goal, according Maj. Tommy Hudnall from Randolph’s 559th Flying Training Squadron, was to interest Cannon’s F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots in becoming instructors on the Texan.

“We’re trying to encourage more fighter influence in the (pilot training) environment,” Hudnall said. “With the fighter wing here closing down, it was a perfect opportunity to give rides in the T-6 and introduce the aircraft’s capabilities to some F-16 pilots.”

The program is the brainchild of a former Fighting Falcon driver, the visiting instructors said. “The 12th Ops Group commander, Col. Christopher Weggeman, sponsored the program,” said Maj. Paul Dupuis. “He’s a “16” guy, and it was his idea to help bring more fighter influence into the “white jet” (trainer) world,” the major said.

“We consider ourselves airpower’s blacksmiths,” Dupuis said. “And we want to forge Air Force aviators with a combat mentality early on.”

Dupuis, who has served as a T-38C Talon instructor pilot and spent more than five years as an enlisted pararescueman, is also a former F -16 pilot in Cannon’s “Hounds of Heaven” 524th Fighter Squadron.

The turboprop Texan II, which replaces the 1950s-era T-37 Tweet as the Air Force’s entry-level trainer in joint primary pilot training, has a world of advantages over its predecessor, Hudnall said.

“It has higher performance than the T-37, excellent visibility, outstanding fuel economy and a pressurized cockpit,” he said. A “glass cockpit,” which substitutes multi-function screen displays for traditional and outmoded round gauges, as well as front-to-rear tandem seating, eases students’ transition to the high-performance T-38C and modem combat aircraft, the major said.

Experience counts for a lot in the instructor pilot world, said Hudnall, whose background includes time in several “heavy” aircraft, including transports.

“The T-6 community has a great mix of pilots from various major weapons systems,” he said. We have fighter, bomber, tanker and transport pilots, we have tons of experience.”

Local pilots were impressed with the Texan II. The observations of Maj. Rick Wageman, 27th Fighter Wing fighter enhancement program manager, were typical.

“It can turn like a gnat,” he said after his flight with Dupuis. “I would go fly that thing in a heartbeat – it must be an awesome aircraft to instruct in and learn in.”

Lt Col. Ancel Yarbrough, 27th Fighter Wing Chief of Safety, echoed those sentiments after his flight. “My first thought was “Every pilot should have one of these,”” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Yarbrough, a former F-16 instructor pilot, also gave high marks to the T-6 as a trainer. “There are great rewards to being an instructor and seeing students progress. I think (the T-6) is a good tool for that and instructing new pilots in it would be a rewarding venture for anyone.”

Another recruiting trip to Cannon is planned in the near future, Hudnall said.
“We’ve had very positive feedback from everyone so far,” he said. “This has been a perfect opportunity to get (Cannon) pilots interested in flying the T-6.”