Pilot trainees Ensign Jonathan Glassman, left, and Ensign Travis Edmond are temporarily detached to Roswell from Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., for Primary Flight Training. (Randal Seyler Photo)
Young pilot trainees from the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps are currently in Roswell, taking advantage of the clear skies above the Roswell International Air Center.
Lt. Col. Pete Blades, USMC, is the commanding officer for the 1st TW5 T-6B Detachment to Roswell, a training detachment out of Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla. He said the training has relocated to Southeastern New Mexico for nine weeks so the pilots can get more time flying during their primary pilot training. The third and final group of pilot trainees are scheduled to arrive later this week and the detachment will head back to Florida in mid-March.
“This is an experiment to see if we can be better stewards of the government’s money,” Blades said. “When the weather is bad, we can’t fly, so the question is whether or not it is more economical to be out here flying or back in Florida looking at the skies, wanting to fly.”
Blades said the trip to Roswell was inspired by the Blue Angels, who train in El Centro, Calif., and on a previous training detachment to Las Cruces.
“Since we’ve been here, we had a little problem with the ice that first week, but otherwise the weather has been perfect.”
Blades said although this is the first time his squadron has come to Roswell, if the training proves to be cost effective, it won’t be the last time the training squads will land here.
“It’s all about the weather,” Blades said. The pilots train in aerobatic flying and formation flying during the primary training phase, and they have to be able to see the planes they are flying with. No visibility means no flying, which prolongs the training cycle.
The pilots fly a T-6B Texan turboprop trainer, under the watchful eye of their instructors, and garner about 20 hours of flight time during this phase of their training.
Most of the student pilots come to the training straight from Officer Candidate School, the Naval Academy, or ROTC programs, and have been in the service for less than a year, said Ensign Daniel Seals, USN.
Pilots in the Primary Training program have already completed their Introductory Flight School and Aviation Preflight Indoctrination training, Seals said.
“IFS is similar to private pilot training that a civilian would take, learning to fly a Cessna,” Seals said. “API is a ground school where you learn mechanics, aerodynamics, and instrumentation.”
The primary training is the last phase before the student pilots move on to advanced flight training in helicopter, multi-engine propeller or tailhook aircraft. Selection for advanced training is based in part on the desire of the trainee and on the needs of the service.
Pilot trainee Ensign Travis Edmond says he hopes to go on to pilot the P-3 Orion or the P-8A Poseidon, the “Big Boys” of aviation.
“I always wanted to fly, and I wanted to fly with the best,” Edmond said, explaining why he chose the Navy. “If you can make it as a Naval aviator, then you can fly anything.”
Seals and Edmond said they both have enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Roswell.
“It’s been really great here,” Seals said. “Besides the great weather, I’ve enjoyed the friendly people and small-town feeling here.”
Edmond said he enjoyed visiting Carlsbad Caverns as well as seeing the Roswell sights, including the city’s museums.
“Everyone has been very helpful, and it’s been an enjoyable experience,” Blades said.