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“Pilot for a Day” at the 179th Airlift Wing

“Pilot for a Day” at the 179th Airlift Wing

Story by TSgt Joseph Harwood on 09/17/2019

Ayden Houston is named an honorary “Pilot for a Day” as part of a special event, Sept. 15, 2019, at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The 164th Airlift Squadron collaborated with “A Special Wish Foundation” of Cleveland, Ohio, to provide Ayden with this unique experience he could share with his family who have been battling a variety of health issues with Ayden since birth.

The day started with an honorary induction ceremony where Col. Todd Thomas, 179th Airlift Wing commander, asked Ayden to raise his right hand and swear to mom that he would have as much fun as possible while performing his duties as an honorary 164th Airlift Squadron pilot for the day.

Aircrew Flight Equipment fitted him in a flight suit, embroidered with official patches bearing his name.

Given a traditional pre-flight briefing, Ayden was able to ask any questions he liked about what the mission of the upcoming flight was and shown aviation maps showing where he was and where he lived.

As Ayden approached the flight line, C-130H Hercules maintainers had formed a tunnel with two single file lines of Airmen to greet him, clapping as he and aircrew made their walk to the aircraft.

Loadmasters gave him a tour of the aircraft and allowed Ayden to assist in some of their pre-flight inspections to ready the aircraft for its flight. Ayden jumped at the chance to sit in the cockpit and experience what the pilots seat felt like.

Airfield Management then assisted Ayden with marshalling the flight out and watching it take off from the airfield.

Following the flight’s departure, Ayden was given the chance to tour Security Forces Squadron and even fire the electronic weapons training simulator where Ayden made it clear that he was a seasoned marksman in video games.

It wasn’t easy to get Ayden away from the Security Forces Squadron but eventually he sat down with his fellow pilots and enjoyed a pizza lunch party.

Aircrew Flight Equipment let Ayden try out Night Vision Goggles on a pilot’s helmet and then prepared him to take his first flight in a C-130 flight simulator, the Multi-Mission Crew Trainer, where he was able to take the controls and take simulated flight lessons with his mom over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

His family said it’s an experience he’ll never forget and they are grateful for everyone who it made it possible.

“I’m going to be a soldier when I grow up!” Ayden said, in which the Airmen around him explained that he would have to join the Army, to which Ayden quickly replied, “Then I’m going to be out here with you guys then.”

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