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"Alley Cats" lead the way in T-1 pilot production

The 48th Flying Training Squadron’s fleet of T-1A Jayhawks sit on the flight line at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 5, 2019. The T-1 is used in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training for the students who are selected to fly airlift or tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

The 48th Flying Training Squadron’s fleet of T-1A Jayhawks sit on the flight line at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, Feb. 5, 2019. The T-1 is used in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training for the students who are selected to fly airlift or tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

A C-130J Hercules, assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, lands while a T-1A Jayhawk, assigned to the 48th Flying Training Squadron, waits for takeoff Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Pilots who are selected to fly airlift or tanker aircraft must first fly the T-1 in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

A C-130J Hercules, assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, lands while a T-1A Jayhawk, assigned to the 48th Flying Training Squadron, waits for takeoff Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Pilots who are selected to fly airlift or tanker aircraft must first fly the T-1 in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

Capt. Jordon Cosgrove, 48th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot (IP), plans a training sortie with a Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training student Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. While planning a training sortie, IPs and student pilots must factor in weather conditions and many other variable obstacles that may happen during their flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

Capt. Jordon Cosgrove, 48th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot (IP), plans a training sortie with a Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training student Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. While planning a training sortie, IPs and student pilots must factor in weather conditions and many other variable obstacles that may happen during their flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

An instructor pilot (IP) and student pilot from the 48th Flying Training Squadron go over pre-flight procedures in a T-1A Jayhawk Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. IPs instill discipline in student pilots when it comes to completing all pre-flight requirements to prevent dangerous errors while flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

An instructor pilot (IP) and student pilot from the 48th Flying Training Squadron go over pre-flight procedures in a T-1A Jayhawk Feb. 5, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. IPs instill discipline in student pilots when it comes to completing all pre-flight requirements to prevent dangerous errors while flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Last year, the 48th Flying Training Squadron “Alley Cats” were the leading creator of Air Force pilots, graduating 233 pilots.

Due to their hard working instructor pilots and staff, the Alley Cats are excelling at meeting the demands of the Air Force during the current pilot shortage.

In Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, each class starts out flying the T-6A Texan II. After that phase of training, based off of their track select, some students will fly the T-1A Jayhawk and that’s where the 48th FTS comes into play.

The 48th FTS flew 9,100 sorties last year, more than any other SUPT T-1 squadron. Those sorties resulted in 19,500 flying hours which put the Alley Cats second overall out of 23 ‘white jet’ squadrons (a non-operational/distinguished visitor airlift style aircraft) in the Air Force.

However, being the No. 1 pilot creator doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Between the ever changing weather conditions, syllabus updates, aircraft maintenance and unforeseen circumstances, the Alley Cats have mastered the art of “adapt and overcome.”

In Richardson’s opinion, flying T-1s at Columbus is one of the most sought after white jet assignments for aviators in the Air Mobility Command and Air Force Special Operations Command. With a long list of volunteers, he and the Air Force Personnel Center work together to select the officers for this highly coveted assignment.

“There’s something to be said about people wanting to be at an assignment versus being told to go to an assignment,” Richardson said. “We enjoy what we do here and we know our purpose.”

Richardson also said that first assignment instructor pilots (FAIP) are a vital piece of the Alley Cats’ SUPT puzzle.

“FAIPs are the backbone of creating pilots,” Richardson said. “They were the students we identified as having the perfect mix of flying talent and leadership skills. It is phenomenal what they do every day to ensure the next generation of pilots are highly trained.”

Some pilots like Capt. Richard Casburn, 48th FTS D-Flight commander, flew the KC-10 (insert aircraft name) after SUPT and went on to have a worldwide impact on a daily basis. Casburn has since returned to be an instructor pilot and said the work has been very rewarding.

“It’s great working with the students and IPs, they are very determined and eager to get the job done,” Casburn said. “I’ve worked in many different squadrons but I’ve never been in one that works so cohesively as a unit to achieve the same goal.”

The 48th FTS won’t stop leading the way anytime soon. The Air Force will always need more high quality, top-of-the-line pilots and the Alley Cats will be there to do it.
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