HomeNewsArticle Display

12th OG hosts low level flying competition

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 12th Operations Group hosted a Undergraduate Pilot Training-wide Low Level Flying Competition April 28 and 29 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.

Forty aircrew members and 19 aircraft from six air force bases from across AETC took part in the event. The aircrews arrived at the airfield in preparation for the competition and spent the first night receiving initial instructions as well as planning and briefing for the next day's mission.

Using aerial photographs for reference, competitors had to identify the location of a pre-determined building along the 70-mile low level route and arrive at the target at a planned time. 12th OG members, Lt. Col. David Donley and Maj. Troy McGrath were positioned at the final point to assess the fliers' accuracy and timing.

After completing their low level mission, the pilots flew to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas where they gathered for an awards ceremony hosted by the San Antonio River Rats and the Randolph Air Power Council at the Parr Officer's Club.

River Rat member and Retired Col. Eddie Pickrel was the guest speaker at the event. Colonel Pickrel, a former F-4G Wild Weasel squadron commander, shared stories of low level combat missions during the Vietnam War, and emphasized the importance of low altitude flying skills.

"Low altitude flying was the bread and butter of many of our flying missions," said Colonel Pickrel. "Our ability to fly well in that challenging environment enhanced our survivability and improved chances for mission success."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, awards were presented to the winners in each aircraft category - T-38, T-6 and T-1 - and to the overall top aircrew in the competition. Retired Col. Ralph Parr presented the awards.

1st Lts. Joe Cangealose and Ryan VanBuskirk, both first assignment instructor pilots from the 85th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin AFB, Texas earned the Top T-6 Performers Award as well as the Overall Top Aircrew Award for their near perfect marks during their flight in the T-6.

Lt. Col. Ki Jackson and Maj. Patrick Giggy, both with the 435th FTS at Randolph AFB, earned the Top T-38 Performers award. Capt. Jesper Stubbendorff and 1st Lt. Ryan Sullivan with the 48th FTS at Columbus AFB, Miss., earned the Top T-1 Performers Award.

The competition was designed by Col. Andrew Croft, 12th OG commander, to hone flying skills and foster closer relations between AETC bases.

"Competitions like this one give our AETC aircrews a chance to hone their flying skills, compete against each other, and build camaraderie between our bases and instructor cadre," said Colonel Croft.

Additionally, "the event tested the mission planning skills and low altitude flying aptitudes of aircrews across AETC," said Maj. Joel Neeb, 12th OG chief of training, who organized and managed the event. "It gave the competitors a break from their daily training missions to participate in some friendly rivalry and make new connections across the command."
The next competition is scheduled for the fall.

"This was a fantastic event - we can't wait for the next one," said 1st Lt. Charles Kilchrist, an instructor pilot from the 459th Flying Training Squadron at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and one of the competitors.

Aircrews from Vance AFB, Okla., and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. also participated in the event.