This marks the first time a student pilot in the Air Force Specialty Code 18X has completed the MQ-9 Basic Course without having been previously qualified in a manned aircraft.
The basic course mirrors traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, but also has some differences specific to the MQ-9 platform, said Lt. Col. Nathan Hansen, 29th Attack Squadron commander.
“There’s extra time built into the syllabus to allow the students to get more practice, because they have to learn techniques they’ve never used before,” Hansen said. “A significant difference and the reason why we can teach someone how to do this that doesn’t have any prior aircraft experience, is because they will never come in contact with the Earth with the aircraft.”
Not having to focus on the launch and recovery aspect significantly cuts the amount of training time, which could account for 75 percent of training at traditional UPT, Hansen added.
“We are here at Holloman for about six months, but we start at Randolph Air Force Base [Texas] then go to Pueblo, Colo., for initial flight screening, and then we go back to Randolph for instrument simulator training,” Chad said. Chad, like many of his classmates, is new to the operations side of the flying world.
“I’m a former logistics and maintenance officer, so this is very exciting, and a privilege because there were many people before us that paved the way,” he said. “The main thing I’m excited about is to go on to my operational unit to be fully trained, so ultimately, I can contribute to the fight.”
No matter what background the student pilots come from, they will now be part of “the tip of the spear,” Hansen said.
“Those wings on your chest mean that you now have a responsibility to lead your crew in accomplishing the mission in defending America’s freedom,” Hansen said during the graduation ceremony. “This is a pretty significant responsibility and a sacred calling. When you’re at the controls of the aircraft, you’re the aircraft commander, so the buck stops with you.