News: Children experience Air Force during Pilot for a Day
Story by Airman 1st Class Nigel Sandridge
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England – Two terminally-ill children from the local area received the chance to see snippets of what the Air Force is really like as part of the Pilot for a Day program on RAF Lakenheath Oct. 10.
Nine-year-old Ethan Ridd, who had brain tumors removed and 18-year-old Stephen Sutton who suffers from multiple tumors, were the selectees for the programs most recent run.
Started in 2012 by Maj. Jason Bianchi, 48th Operations Support Squadron chief of current operations, Pilot for a Day gives sick children a break from routine hospital visits and a chance to see what the Air Force does.
“I’ve done this program at my previous bases, so when I found out that we didn’t have it here, I decided to get it started,” said Bianchi. “This is our sixth run of the program here, making Ethan and Stephen the 10th and 11th recipients.”
The children along with their families spent the day visiting various sites on base getting to experience things such as a jet engine run, fire truck displays, viewing the base from the control tower, meeting the Birds of Prey team and getting to see an F-15E Strike Eagle.
“My favorite part of today was the test engines,” said 18 year old Stephen Sutton, a Pilot for a Day participant. “It was literally five feet away and I could feel its raw power.”
After a day packed with activities, the children were awarded their very own pilot’s flight patches.
“It was a pleasure having Stephen and Ethan, along with their families, here,” said Bianchi. “I feel really humbled and privileged to be a part of this.”