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Flying high
Second Lt. Abraham Morland, an 80th Flying Training Wing student, held dual citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Having opportunities to fly for both countries, he eventually chose to renounce his British citizenship and fly for the United States Air Force. Morland embarked on his first solo flight April 23, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson)
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Solo or no-go: ENJJPT pilot's perspective on first solo flight

Posted 5/16/2014   Updated 5/16/2014 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

5/16/2014 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Editors Note: This article is an ongoing series about the obstacles 2nd Lt. Abraham Morland faces as a Sheppard Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program student in the year long course, after he renounced his British citizenship to pursue his dream of flying in the U.S. Air Force.

At the end of April, noise on the flight line was loud, but the sound of a T-6 Texan's prop-driven engines sliced through the wind with rapid clarity. This was 2nd Lt. Abraham Morland's first solo flight, and it was the flight to determine the course of his entire career.

The solo flight is an important milestone for a student pilot as they strive to earn their wings as alumni of the world's only multi-nationally manned and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for NATO.

Morland described the feeling of being thousands of feet in the sky without any direct supervision as unfamiliar, yet exhilarating.

"It didn't really hit me that I was by myself until I'd taken off and there was no one behind me talking to me," he said. "It's definitely a strange feeling, but I was definitely excited because that's one milestone to getting my wings."

From the beginning of his journey, Morland has leaned heavily on his determination to check each box on his way to earning his wings.

"If you don't have confidence you won't believe in yourself, if you don't believe in yourself, you won't make it through," he said. "No matter how much anyone else believes in you, you have to be able to believe in yourself and harness it."

When Morland touched back down on the flight line and completed his flight, he had eager teammates waiting for him. What he would receive in the wake of his accomplishment was going to be congratulations and an involuntary swim.

As a long-held tradition, once a pilot finishes their first solo flight, they are thrown by their teammates into a pool of water that is oftentimes green and seldom cleaned. When the weather gets hot, its organic contents pose an even more unappealing ordeal. Pilots are allowed to do their best and resist their dunk in the water only through craft and cleverness.

Legends are abound in the 80th FTW of those who evade capture through changing uniforms to even more drastic measures such as getting wheeled out in janitorial trashcans. Regardless of how other pilots may have got out of their drenched circumstance, that was not the fate that awaited Morland.

As soon as he stepped off the jet, his teammates were there to escort him, and an entire crowd of people awaited him as he disembarked from the flight line bus. It was official. There was no escape.

With multiple hands picking him up as he kicked out in futility, he soared through the air and landed in the pool. With beads of water dripping from his entire flight suit, the only solace was the Texas sun and the smiles that ran across the faces of his teammates. The tradition and morale it fostered was priceless to Morland.

"The camaraderie is strong in our class and we support each other through thick and thin," he said.

The initial shock and stench of the pool caught Morland by surprise.

"It was really cold," he remembered. "When I got out, my clothes smelled really bad."

With an uphill climb that's approximately 55-weeks long, Morland knows he still has a long way to go, but counts his faith as a major cornerstone of motivation.

"Pilot training is very tough and you need that encouragement, so it's definitely what's getting me through right now," he said.

As his high-flying journey progresses, Morland continues to keep his eyes on the prize, and the wings that will eventually accompany them.

5/20/2014 3:40:14 PM ET
My solo flight is as vivid today as it was when my IP unleashed me to enter space alone. I have found no substitute for the amazing feeling of being alone in an aircraft especially when you have the ability to hang in the straps by yourself and take the aircraft where ever you desire.
Colonel Frank Leuck Retired, St. George UT
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