Twins soar through flight school together

Published on August 03, 2016 with No Comments

Twins spend a lot of their lives growing up, going to school, and hanging out together. 1st Lts. Matteo and Andy Occhipinti, however, took it to the next level. Through luck and a little bit of effort, the fraternal twins have managed to go through flight school at the same time and soared through the skies together.

Matteo and Andy were born in Italy, Aug. 16, five minutes apart from each other with Andy as the older of the two. Ever since they were young, aviation had an influence in their lives. Matteo nostalgically recalled holding an F-14 Tomcat model while on their flight to America. They worked hard on discovering programs that would give him the best grades and athleticism needed to be officers of the Marine Corps.

While both knew they wanted to be Marines, Andy and Matteo took separate paths after high school.  Andy was accepted to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Marine Option at the Illinois Institute of Technology, while Matteo went to the University of Illinois in Chicago where he spent the summer of his junior and senior years working on his earning his commission through the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC). Matteo commissioned September 2013 and Andy commissioned May 2014, both with air contracts to be pilots for the Marine Corps.

The twins were then sent to The Basic School (TBS), but they were in different classes and platoons from each other. After completion of TBS, they checked in to Naval Air Station Pensacola School’s Command for flight school one month apart.

Although Andy was ahead by one week during Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), the two studied together to pass all the tricky and rigorous exams the first four weeks of the curriculum threw at them.

“It’s kind of like having both your best friend and your best study buddy here with you,” Matteo said. “We know how we each study, and we know how the other thinks.”

The twins passed their exams and celebrated their right to wear their flight suits for the first time on a day nicknamed as “Flight Suit Friday.” Following that day, two weeks of API remained. By chance, on the final week of API, Andy had a bout with food poisoning that caused a delay in his training. When he recovered, he was able to join his brother’s API class and graduate together with him.

When the twins checked into Training Air Wing FIVE for Primary Flight Training with the T-6B Texan II aircraft, they knew they had to tackle this phase together. They requested to be in the same squadron and had absolutely no regrets on this decision. With Training Squadron SIX, the twins were given the special opportunity to go through the formation phase of Primary together.

“There was nothing else like flying really close and up next to my brother in formation.” Matteo said, “To practice, we would ride next to each other on motorcycles to practice our maneuvers. We had ICS [Intercommunications Systems] rigged in our [bike] helmets and that was the best way to practice forms!”

On top of that, Andy and Matteo spent nearly 100 hours in the practice T-6B simulators and doubled their hours in the simulator compared to the actual plane. The brothers were dedicated to their jobs as student aviators, pushing each other to do the absolute best they could, and performed exceptionally well in Primary

“Primary was awesome!” Andy said, “It was more intense academically, but all this flying, learning, and doing formation together – it was way cooler than just riding together.”

Their teamwork, effort, and determination paid off when the brothers were selected to be jet pilots for the Marine Corps. They transferred to Training Squadron SEVEN in Meridian, Miss. to learn how to fly the T-45 for their Advanced Flight Training.

“We’re excited about it,” Matteo mentioned. “I can’t wait to practice dogfighting with him.”

They plan on using their study strategies that have given them much success so far in flight school. Their Advanced Flight Training will start in August, so in the meantime, Andy is sitting in on ground school classes and passing on information to Matteo.

In between studying, Matteo and Andy spend a lot of their free time working out, spearfishing, and learning to surf together. Though they may seem inseparable, the brothers like to hang out on their own at times.

“I like to go out and party, while Andy usually stays home and watches Lifetime and Oprah,” Matteo joked.

“Hey, it saves me money that I can use to take my bike to the racetrack at Barker Motorsports in Birmingham.” Andy said in response.

Though they described their relationship with each other similar to an annoying marriage, the brothers don’t regret their adventure through flight school together.

“I know we’ll be separated at some point when we get out to the fleet,” Andy said, looking towards their future, “We’ve done the separation thing in college, so I know we’ll be fine.”

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