Changing Lives through Flight, the Wright Way

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Matthew Babcock
  • 355th Training Squadron
Sometimes a career in the Air Force is only the start of one's service to this country. For civilian contractor Robin "Spidey" Stoddard, an A-10C academic and simulator instructor here at D-M, that is an understatement.

On September 15, 2011, Mr. Stoddard was recognized by the National Aeronautic Association in Washington with the award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancement of Public Benefit Flying.

This award is presented to an individual or organization that demonstrates outstanding achievement that helped raise the standard of service or contributed significantly to the overall advancement of Public Benefit Flying.

Wright Flight was founded in 1986 when Mr. Stoddard was first stationed at D-M as a captain.

"I became aware of the overwhelming influence aviation could have on youth and wanted to make a difference," Mr. Stoddard said.

Over the past 25 years, Mr. Stoddard has led Wright Flight to dramatic growth, with nine chapters nationwide that have graduated more than 20,000 students. The Tucson Chapter caters to approximately 1,000 youth annually and is run almost exclusively by volunteers.

"Mr. Stoddard's development of Wright Flight was truly visionary and has positively impacted an entire generation of students," said Lt. Col. Andrew Kapuscak, 355th Training Squadron commander. "Spidey is the epitome of service before self and richly deserves this recognition from the NAA."

Wright Flight students must sign a contract pledging to lead a drug, alcohol, and tobacco free life, raise their grades in at least one class and complete a nine week course on aviation history with an 85 percent or better on the final test. If the student is successful at the end of the course, volunteer pilots with Wright Flight take them for their graduation flight.

"The catch with Wright Flight is that flights may only be earned, they cannot be bought and only about 60 percent of the students are successful," Mr. Stoddard said. "This teaches kids to work hard, meet standards and feel the satisfaction of accomplishment with the rare opportunity to fly in a single-engine aircraft and learn the basics of being a pilot."

Mr. Stoddard's 30 years of service in active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard with more than 4,500 flight hours in the An-2, A-7, A-10, and F-16, coupled with his five combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bronze Star make him stand out among military aviators. But for the last 25 years, Mr. Stoddard has provided an additional service to the Tucson community and the nation as the executive director of Wright Flight, which promotes academic leadership and achievement in middle school students.

"I'm humbled to be recognized for this achievement, but getting the chance to change kids' lives and share values that I learned as an aviator in the world's greatest Air Force is the most rewarding part," Mr. Stoddard said. "The legacy of air power will only continue if my generation takes the time to mentor the younger generation."