MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- Military pilot training is long and intense, requiring students to meet exacting mental and physical standards. The moment these men and women receive their Air Force silver or Navy gold pilot wings, they join a group that has served its country since aviation became a part of modern warfare in World War I.
One member of that elite group is Col. Terry Cawley, U.S. Air Force retired.
Cawley, 71, is the oldest of the retired pilots now working for Lear Siegler Inc. at Moody Air Force Base, where he conducts Undergraduate Pilot Training. The UPT program returned to Moody AFB last year after the pilot training closed there in the 1970s.
Cawley arrived at Moody in 1990 under a contract, when he became the F-16 flight simulator site manager, and held that position until March 2001.
During that time, the base was the home for the 68th, 69th and 70th Fighter Squadrons, and there were two additional fighter squadrons transferred to Moody from Homestead AFB after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992.
Moody's restructuring -- from being a F-16 fighter base to being the only active duty combat search and rescue wing in the Air Force -- brought many changes. The 479th Flying Training Group and its instructor pilots arrived with the responsibility of training future military pilots. There were other instructors needed to prepare the student pilots before they took to the air with their IPs.
Former pilots, both Air Force and Navy, like Cawley, have years of valuable experience to pass on. Cawley has almost 50 years of flying experience. These retired pilots are easy to recognize -- they wear blue uniforms and a name tag bearing Air Force or Navy pilot wings. This combination of active duty IPs and retired pilots ensures the UPT students receive the best training available.
Cawley instructs students in the T-6A "Texan II" flight simulators. The simulator training gives students their first taste of the T-6A aircraft, making them familiar with the cockpit and its instrument panel. Other training includes take-off and landing, flying patterns and formations and navigation.
Cawley, who retired in 1980, began his Air Force career in 1953 at Stallings Air Force Base near Kinston, N.C. It was there that he took what was then called Primary Pilot Training.
Pilot training was a little different then. "Then, we basically had civilian instructors with a World War II background, Cawley said. "There was cadre of military, a flight commander and four to five other officers, making sure it ran according to military doctrine."
There are some differences between the aircraft, training and the student pilots that attended Primary Pilot Training then, Cawley said.
Today the student pilots go through 40 hours of training to receive their private pilot's license prior to beginning the UPT. All the students are college graduates either from one of the service academies or an ROTC program. Today's students have more technical skills than the students pilots had when Cawley went through training, he said.
"Different things motivate people now," Cawley said. "But, basically it's the same type of individual who wants to become a pilot."
Today's student pilots are flying the T-6A Texan II, which has a more sophisticated cockpit. It's pressurized and has the latest technology, making the transition to flying other military aircraft easier. Also, there is a canopy ejection seat system. This is considerably different from Cawley's class in 1953, when students had their introduction to flying in the PA-18 Piper Cub.
"The first 20 hours in the PA-18 were used to determine if a person had the necessary skills to fly," Cawley said. "Student who became airsick or didn't have the basic skills were identified."
Flight simulator training was also different. The training took place in a device called the Link Trainer, a device Cawley described as an instrument trainer, basically a box with wings. The cockpit was closed, and the students learned how to use the instrument panel.
today are divided into three groups. There is the Unit Training Device (UTD), familiarizing the students with cockpit and instruments. The second simulator is for Instrument Flight Training (IFT). The IFT simulator teaches the students how the instruments are used during flight. A flat screen resembling a television is in place in front of the students enhancing the use of the cockpit instruments.
The third simulator, known as the Operational Flight Training device (OFT), gives students the closest thing to flying without leaving the ground. The OFT demonstrates how to fly in formations and operational situations. Students are given visual situations with a 270-degree horizontal view and 70-degree vertical view, the same type of view they would have in an actual flight.
Today, all the student pilots have college degrees; but that wasn't the case in Cawley's Primary Pilot Training class. He was one of four commissioned officers in his class, and the remaining students were part of the old Aviation Cadet Program that was still in effect. Under the program, students were commissioned as second lieutenants when they earned their wings.
"It was a big day for them getting their wings and brown bar," Cawley said.
Cawley had 50 hours off flying time with the old T-6 aircraft and also flew the T-28 and T-33 during the course of his pilot training.
Asked how he felt about the training students receive today, Cawley said, "I feel no jealousy. The training we received was adequate."
During his career, Cawley flew the F-86, F-100 and F-4. In the Vietnam War, he flew the F-104 in 1966.
Since he was given the T-6A simulator training, Cawley got a chance to make an update flight with the T-6A on Dec. 18 of last year. After he completed the flight, Cawley fellow instructors showed their respect for his years of experience. They took him to the dunking tank behind the 479th FTG building and threw him in, the same treatment UPT students get when they complete their first solo flight.
"They were a disrespectful bunch of (expletive deleted)," Cawley said, smiling.
Cawley estimates that he has trained hundreds of pilots since 1990. He could enjoy retirement, but he has no desire to stop being an instructor.
"I want to keep doing it as long as it's enjoyable," he said. "I'm able to associate with pilots themselves and maintain that contact with something that has been a part of my life for almost 50 years."
To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.
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