Kyle Dupuis: Pilot for a day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Most Americans will never get the opportunity to fly a plane. Even for those in the Air Force, only a small percent are pilots. For 14-year-old Kyle Dupuis, his dream of being a pilot has become a reality as he toured D-M here Oct. 21, as a participant in the Pilot for a Day Program.

Kyle has a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. This means his adrenal gland is always pumping hormones into his body. He tries to regulate it through medication, but one of the side effects is that his bones are aging rapidly because of the treatments. In addition, Kyle also suffers from scoliosis. He has also had corrective surgery on his legs to lengthen his Achilles' tendons and to rebuild his feet and ankles, but after the surgery, has had trouble walking and cannot run.

Kyle is sponsored by the Kids Wish Network which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to granting the wishes of children between the ages of three and 18 who are living with life threatening illnesses. Kyle's only wish was to come to D-M, complete the Pilot for a Day program and visit his Uncle who is stationed at D-M, Staff Sgt. James Brumbaugh, 355th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

The day began by meeting 1st Lt. Matthew Babcock, 355th Training Squadron, at the visitors' center. From there, Lieutenant Babcock escorted them to the 357th Fighter Squadron where Kyle was greeted by Lt. Col. Theodore Coiner, 357th FS assistant director of operations. Because the program is called Pilot for a Day and not Civilian for a Day, Kyle was presented his very own flight suit, complete with a Pilot for a Day patch and one with his name. He was sworn in after reciting the Oath of Office and then proceeded to show his vast knowledge of aircrafts by identifying and talking about the many different pictures that lined the walls.

Throughout his day-long excursion of all things military, Kyle and his family were able to see and experience everything pilots get to use on an daily basis such as pilot helmets, breathing mask, night vision goggles, rockets and munitions that A-10s are loaded with. To get a first person view and feel of a fighter pilot, Kyle had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of an actual A-10. They also received a military working dog demonstration from security forces and visited the fire department where he saw the Jaws of Life, the station itself and fire trucks. Even all his limitations due to his illness couldn't stop Kyle from conquering the powerful fire hose.

Kyle particularly enjoyed two areas he was introduced to during his day with the Desert Lightning Team.

The first was the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. AMARG is full of planes and helicopters, both old and new models. During the tour, Kyle was able to see different models of his favorite plane, the F-4 Phantom. Lieutenant Babcock said that during the tour, the tour guide kept trying to stump Kyle with aircraft knowledge, but was unable.

"He's very knowledgeable when it comes to past and present aircrafts," Lieutenant Babcock said. "He was smarter on aircrafts in terms of history and models than anybody I've met. When taking the tour of AMARG, he was able to identify every aircraft we saw, even those that were partially disassembled."

His other favorite was located at the Operations Group building. He was finally able to get some time with the A-10 simulator and try his hand at flying and both air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements. His knowledge of military aircrafts was once again put on display as he quickly and accurately named other aircrafts on the simulator.

"This was an incredible experience to be a part of," Lieutenant Babcock said. "Though Kyle may have some physical limitations, he makes up for them with intelligence. He is clearly passionate about planes and successfully mastered the aircraft encyclopedia. To me, this proves that each of us are given gifts to share, even if we are limited in other areas. I definitely learned more from Kyle than he learned from me."

The Pilot for a Day Program originated at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in 1994 and has since been implemented at several other Air Force bases. Davis-Monthan hosted its first program participant in August 2000, and new program coordinators intend to organize and conduct one D-M visit per month.