MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, GA, March 24, 2017 —
A Lebanese A-29 Super Tucano pilot trainee, from the 81st Fighter Squadron, conducted the first ‘in seat’ training sortie March 22, 2017, here.
The program began in March 2017 and is designed to ensure the Lebanon air force receives the support and training needed to safely and effectively employ the A-29 aircraft.
“It was his first flight in the aircraft so it was a great [opportunity] for him to get oriented in the A-29 and how it flies,” said the 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, who conducted the first flight. “[Since training began] this was the first opportunity that we’ve had to get the first Lebanese airborne. They’ve been doing ground training, learning the procedures, patterns, simulator and emergency procedures.”
With the first flight completed and logged, the 81st FS moves one step closer to the programs end goal which emulates the 81st FS Afghan training. These pilots and maintainers will be armed with the light air support capabilities they need to defend their country from terrorism and combat common enemies.
“We’ve got one student with one flight under his belt but it’s a small victory for us,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hill, 81st Fighter Squadron commander. “The end state is that we’re going to have 12 trained Lebanese pilots. These guys will be fully-trained operational combat pilots in the A-29 aircraft. The ultimate goal is for them to fight ISIS on their eastern border.”
After completing the program, 12 pilots and approximately 20 maintainers will also be able to stand up their own fully functional A-29 squadron and be able to continue operations on their own in Lebanon.
“Here in our squadron we call it teaching a man to fish,” said Hill. “In the old Proverb, it says, ‘if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.’ This is a great opportunity for us and the Air Force because we can partner with another nation and fight our common enemy. It’s also a deployment that we don’t have to make because those guys are over there defending their country which is in line with everything we are doing in the United States Air Force.”