Air Force / Navy student exchange ends at Whiting Field

Published on July 26, 2013 with No Comments

An era of joint Navy/Air Force Pilot Training came to a close July 23, 2013 when an Air Force student pilot landed his final flight.  1st Lt.  David A. Zitelli’s landing of a T-6B “Texan II” will mark the end of his primary phase of military pilot training, and he will become the last Air Force student to study in the joint pipeline at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Fla.

The Air Force and Navy began their joint endeavor in February 1994 when Capt. Robert J. Kelliher was assigned to Training Squadron THREE as the first Air Force instructor.  In 1995, 1st Lt. Kevin S. Armstrong became the first Air Force flight student to enter the Navy’s joint training program.  Lt. Col. Shawn D. Elliott was named the first Air Force Skipper of VT-3 in September, 1995.  At the time, all training was completed in the T-34 Mentor.

In September 2009, Training Wing Five accepted its first T-6B Texan II, the replacement for the T-34.  VT-3 was selected as the first squadron to transition to the new aircraft, and started training students in the T-6 in May 2010.  The first T-6 syllabus student completed training in October of that same year.

In the course of the joint pilot training, VT-3 trained an average of 96 Air Force students annually for more than 18 years, resulting in completion of 1,700 Air Force students, 85,300 flights, and 179,130 flight hours. Lt. Col Brian M. Schafer, USAF, VT-3, will be the last Air Force Skipper to serve at Whiting Field.  He currently leads a highly motivated group of instructor pilots from all services, including 24 USAF, 23 USN, 9 USMC and 5 USCG pilots.

The Air Force and Navy have decided to continue the instructor exchange and VT-3 will retain 18 Air Force instructors until a later determination.

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