Seven-year-old is D-M's Pilot for a Day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Seven-year-old Chenoa Richner toured the base Dec. 29, as a participant in the Pilot for a Day Program.

The purpose of the program is to give local children with illnesses an enjoyable day completely devoted to them and their interest in aviation.
"Our Airmen enjoy the program probably just as much as the Pilot for a Day child," said Maj. Eric Theriault, a pilot with the 354th Fighter Squadron and coordinator of the Pilot for a Day Program.

Accompanying Chenoa were her mother and sister.

Chenoa's day began by meeting her host pilot, Capt. Paul "Drago" Doran, a 354th FS A-10 pilot, at the visitors' center.

Captain Doran took Chenoa and her family to the 354th FS where he presented Chenoa with her very own flight suit, complete with a personalized name tag and squadron patches.

Once suited up, Chenoa and her family listened to a briefing, toured the squadron and checked out life support gear.

After finishing up at the 354th FS, Captain Doran took Chenoa and her family on a tour of the base fire department, where she rode in a fire truck and saw the fire hose in action. She also tried on the firefighter's equipment and used their weight room.

From there, Chenoa and her family took a trip to the flightline where she saw an A-10 on display and got to sit in the cockpit.

Chenoa and family then went to the 79th Rescue Squadron where they used night vision goggles and tried on some of the equipment that the squadron uses. They were then taken outside to see a HC-130. Chenoa and her sister both loved sitting in the pilot seats and talking to each other through their headsets.
After they ate a lunch of pizza and chicken wings, the group then headed to the 355th Operations Support Squadron, where Chenoa and her family got to experience an A-10 simulator, a system that replicates flying an aircraft over a virtual map as realistically as possible.

After Chenoa and her family finished eating, they went to the control tower for a brief tour before heading back home.

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.
"Anyone who's ever taken part in the Pilot for a Day Program knows the joy it brings to the child and the family," Maj. Theriault said. "The program makes you reflect on what's important in life and what our role is as Airmen working with the local community."