Helicopter flight crews from across the country, representing the United States Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, gathered at Naval Air Station Whiting Field this week for the 26th annual Naval Helicopter Association Fleet Fly-In. The four-day event allowed pilots and flight crews to not only network amongst each other but to compete as well.
However, one of the main beneficiaries of the event are the flight students of Training Air Wing Five.
“They have the ability to interact and engage with all of the fleet air crews and talk to them as they make their decision to see what they would like to go and fly for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corp or Coast Guard,” said Col. Gary Kling, the commodore of Training Air Wing Five. “It is an unbelievable opportunity for these young men and women.”
See photos of the Fly-In by clicking here.
Kling said NAS Whiting Field was responsible for producing 68 percent of every naval aviator in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corp and Coast Guard.
Spencer Wiltz just completed his training at Whiting Field and earned his wings last week. Now the Washington native is awaiting orders with the U.S. Navy.
From classroom instruction from certified pilots, including hours of simulator training, studying and using those acquired piloting skills in a training aircraft under the close supervision of an instructor, Wiltz said his instruction experience was similar to his college experience. However, the process was worth it.
“It had its ups and downs, but when you finish with it, you say, ‘It wasn’t that bad.’ I never thought of this as a job, to be honest,” Wiltz said.
Lt. Chelsea Brunoehler is one of several flight fixed-wing instructors at Whiting Field. On a monthly basis, Brunoelhler said she would provide instruction to nearly 20 flight students who come through Whiting Field. One of the key traits found in a majority of the pilots, she said, is their enthusiasm.
“I come to work every day with people who are very motivated and who are really excited to become pilots,” she said. “I don’t have the challenge of working with people who don’t want to be here.”