The 41st FTS takes students and molds pilots

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
“Unwavering professionals forging American combat airpower,” is the single mission of the 41st Flying Training Squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.

The 41st FTS student pilots cannot fly across Southeast Asia on a combat mission in a C-17 Globemaster III or an F-22 Raptor without passing numerous flights in the T-6 Texan II to graduate pilot training.

“We work with some of the most excited and motivated people you’re ever going to work with,” said 1st Lt. Maxwell Adler, 41st FTS instructor pilot. “All these students fought very hard to be here and will stop at almost nothing to accomplish their goal of getting into an operational airframe. They work hard and they study hard. Study, eat, sleep, repeat.”

This motivation contributes to the success of all 14th Flying Training Wing Airmen, Adler said, the motivation of the students has an effect on everyone near it.

“We’re putting out over 100 sorties every day,” Adler said. “Which means that’s going to put a lot of wear and tear on our gear, so without the aircrew flight equipment guys and girls, we’d run into issues and be unable to fly as hard. When the 1-Charlies (aviation resource management) make sure our paperwork is cleared and get us to our tail numbers on time we can fly on schedule. Without the other groups, squadrons and units we’d be unable to even begin flying, it all works like a machine.”

Like clockwork, the 14th FTW completes pilot training day in and day out, filling the gap on the pilot shortage one flight at a time. This does not come without its barriers though.

“The challenges of training pilots is balance,” said Lt. Col. Brent Curtis, 41st FTS commander. “We could all fly three times a day all day long every day of the year and we could produce more pilots than we do right now, but you can’t sustain that. The real challenge is finding the optimum rate of work and life balance. We consume all of our instructors every day. If someone comes in sick we have nobody to fill their place because we have scheduled everybody we have for everything.”

This balance is something Adler deals with on a regular basis. He was a student pilot not long before he became a first assignment instructor pilot for the 41st FTS.

“Students will accomplish 15 to 25 sorties before they come fly with us in the check flight,” Adler said. “We are evaluating how they have been instructed, their progression through the program and if they are ready to continue to progress through the program. We are here to make sure we are producing pilots that will go on to be military aviators.”

Seeing pilot training from the student and instructor’s seats shows the impact training has and Adler says the long days are worth it for every instructor there.

“The reward of my job is being able to see a student who has no idea what they are doing and gets airsick every sortie,” Adler said, “a student who has been beat into the dirt, and becomes this pilot who can fly in formation 10 feet from another airplane up to 90 degrees of bank and stay in position while going 200 knots through the air is amazing.”

From the squadron commander’s office there is nothing but pride as well, Curtis has spent many years as a student, instructor and now commander within the pilot training mission, and is happy to be back in a leadership position.

“What’s great is working hard to take care of the people and share mission success with those same people,” Curtis said. “They don’t work for me, I work for them.”

Curtis mentioned a lot of pride in the pilots the 41st FTS has produced and the instructor’s consistently great work. He said he is also proud to be an integral part of the many individuals across all three pilot training bases reworking the pilot training course to produce great pilots more efficiently. He hopes to have his squadron continue helping polish the way pilot training is completed.