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'Pilot for a Day' at the 179th Airlift Wing

By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harwood | 179th Airlift Wing | Sept. 19, 2019

MANSFIELD, Ohio – The 164th Airlift Squadron collaborated to make 6-year-old Ayden Houston honorary "Pilot for a Day" at the 179th Airlift Wing Sept. 15.

Ayden, who has been battling a variety of health issues since birth, began the day with an honorary induction ceremony. Col. Todd Thomas, 179th Airlift Wing commander, asked Ayden to raise his right hand and swear to mom he would have as much fun as possible while performing his duties as an honorary 164th Airlift Squadron pilot for the day.

Aircrew Flight Equipment fitted him in a flight suit, embroidered with official patches bearing his name.

During a preflight briefing, Ayden was able to ask any questions about the mission and look at aviation maps showing his location and where he lived.

At the flight line, C-130H Hercules maintainers formed a tunnel with two single-file lines of Airmen to greet Ayden, clapping as he and aircrew walked to the aircraft.

Loadmasters gave him a tour of the aircraft and allowed Ayden to help with preflight inspections. Ayden jumped at the chance to sit in the pilot's seat in the cockpit.

Airfield Management helped Ayden marshal the flight out and he watched it take off.

He then toured Security Forces Squadron and fired the electronic weapons training simulator, making it clear he was a seasoned marksman in video games.

It wasn't easy to lure Ayden from the Security Forces Squadron, but eventually, he sat down with fellow pilots to eat pizza.

Aircrew Flight Equipment let Ayden try night vision goggles on a pilot's helmet and then prepared him to take his first flight in a C-130 flight simulator, the Multi-Mission Crew Trainer. He took the controls for simulated flight lessons with his mom over Pearl Harbor.

His family said it was an experience he will never forget, and they were grateful for everyone who it made it possible.

"I'm going to be a soldier when I grow up!" Ayden said as the Airmen around him explained that he would have to join the Army.

"Then I'm going to be out here with you guys then," he replied.