MILTON — Naval Air Station Whiting Field and Training Air Wing finished its week-long 27th annual Gulf Coast Fleet Fly-in on Friday, bringing together helicopter flight students and fleet aircraft.
Marine, Coast Guard and Navy helicopters participated in the event in conjunction with the Naval Helicopter Association. Activities included industry discussion panels, periods for students to experience the aircraft, a question-and-answer panel with senior officers, aviation-related community career briefings and a variety of social engagements.
“The Fleet Fly-in is a really great opportunity for the flight students to get introduced to the fleet aircraft,” Lt. Kyle Wiest said. “It was one, as a student, I was able to attend…They actually get to go up and fly in the aircraft, see how it operates, see how it’s a little different than the training helo they get to fly.”
Flight student Lt. j.g. Katy Caraway said her interest was in the United States Coast Guard’s MH-60T helicopter.
Caraway, originally from Carlsbad, N.M., started in federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because she’s always wanted to help people.
“I figured with the Coast Guard I’d be able to fly before I was too old,” she said.
The Coast Guard’s mission aligns with her purpose, she said, and allows her to serve while staying in the United States.
Helicopter pilots gravitate to Alaska since the terrain calls for a lot of helicopter travel, according to Caraway.
“The most difficult flying is in Alaska,” she said. “I’d like to end up there eventually.”