Solo -- an important step along the path to pilot wings Published July 18, 2019 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The “solo” flight in a training aircraft is a significant step toward earning U.S. Air Force pilot wings. At Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, 2nd Lt. Corey Persons, in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, took that step July 15. He performed a walk-around of the T-6A Texan II and received a final briefing from the flight commander, Capt. Marcel Trott. Then, just before Persons climbed into the cockpit, an important Air Force tradition was observed. The flight commander gave Persons his wings patch. That way, a set of pilot wings is onboard the aircraft during flight. It is also a symbol of the trust an instructor has in the student’s ability to safely fly the aircraft alone. During the solo flight, the instructor on the ground wears the student’s name-tag as a symbol of solidarity and pride in the student. After his successful solo flight, Persons’ fellow student pilots tossed him into the solo-dunk-tank, another tradition along the path of fulfilling Team Vance’s mission to “Deliver pilots, develop innovative Airmen, deploy warriors and demonstrate our culture.” Vance graduates more than 350 new pilots every year, totaling more than 34,000 since the base opened in 1941.