Fifteen-year-old Austin Thacker sits in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II. Austin is recovering from cancer. The “Pilot for a Day” program allows children who have serious or chronic conditions to go behind the scenes with a flying squadron here.
Austin smiles while controlling an HC-130J Combat King II Simulator. Thacker and both of his brothers, Matt, 17, and Colton, 8, were able to fly the simulator shortly after touring the inside of a real HC-130J.
Austin sits in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II with 1st Lt. Brady Montuori, 79th Rescue Squadron.
Austin sits between his parents, Jennifer and Scott Thacker, while they pose for a picture aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a Pilot for a Day tour. During the tour, the Thacker family visited the 55th and 43rd rescue squadrons, allowing them to look inside the HH-60G and an HC-130J Combat King II.
Maj. Lee Boedeker, 55th Rescue Squadron assistant director of operations, explains the controls of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter to Austin. As the host pilot, Boedeker served as Thacker’s wingman and tour guide for the day, answering questions and ensuring that Thacker and his family had a day to remember.
Austin is sworn in by Lt. Col. Andrew Smith, 55th Rescue Squadron commander, during his “Pilot for a Day” tour. The Pilot for a Day tour starts with a swearing-in ceremony at the host flying squadron, in which the honoree becomes an honorary Air Force pilot.
Fifteen-year-old Austin Thacker shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Maj. Lee Boedeker, 55th Rescue Squadron assistant director of operations, to start a “Pilot for a Day” tour at D-M, Nov. 22. The “Pilot for a Day” program focuses on children of all ages, military or civilian, who have a serious or chronic condition and invites them to be a guest of the 355th Fighter Wing and one of the flying squadrons here.