LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark.— The nation's tactical airlift “center of excellence,” the 314th Airlift Wing, is using a hands-on approach to bolster the C-130 community and increase pilot retention.
Members of the 314th AW traveled to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, Nov. 6, 2020, to offer an opportunity for first assignment instructor pilots and student pilots to fly in a C-130J Super Hercules, learn more about the aircraft, and ask 62nd Airlift Squadron pilots questions.
“We picked up the FAIPs and flew them around the local area to get them excited about coming to the C-130,” said Capt. Travis Thornton, 62nd AS pilot. “We’re here to recruit from a talented company grade officer corps and we want to make these guys eager to join our airframe.”
After the flight, the 62nd AS set up two C-130J static displays in order for the students to walk around the aircraft and navigate the cockpit while learning about the capabilities of the plane.
“Being able to see an aircraft first-hand is invaluable when deciding what aircraft we want to be assigned in the future,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew Bolton, 14th Student Squadron student pilot. “Right now, we don’t know a lot about all the different aircraft — outside of air shows, all we see every day is the turboprop T-6 Texan II and the T-38 Talon.”
With approximately 700 student pilots from 25 different nations, it’s important for the students to learn about the mobility mission and familiarize themselves with the potential aircraft they could be operating in the future.
“When I went through training, I knew very little about the C-130,” Thornton said. “Talking with other instructors seemed to be a common theme. We decided we needed to seek out the students and show them what the C-130 is all about.”
Members of the 314th AW plan to continue visiting pilot training bases to share information and continuously grow the pilot community.
“This is a great recruiting opportunity for the 314th AW,” Thornton said. “By coming here and actually having the students see the aircraft in person, fly around the local area, see the cockpit, see all the instruments and the unique capabilities of the C-130 is a really great opportunity to get students excited to pick the airframe they will be flying for their Air Force career.”
Upon completion of the undergraduate pilot training, students will receive specialized follow-on training for their assigned aircraft. For those assigned C-130s, they would go to the 314th AW.
Training over 1,200 students annually, the 314th AW continues to produce Total Force Mobility Airmen while advancing warfighting and mobility capabilities.
“We’re constantly training students and sending experienced new talent into the C-130 community and we have no plans of slowing down,” Thornton said. "We’re going to keep pressing forward to make the mission happen and ensure we continue to build professional, combat-minded C-130 pilots.”