MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – First Lt. Zerbin Singleton qualified as the Marine Corps’ last CH-46 Sea Knight pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 23.
The MV-22B Osprey is replacing the Sea Knight, making the accomplishment of Singleton particularly noteworthy. Several local news stations came out to record the event.
“[The CH-46 has] been the backbone of the Marine Corps assault support program since about 1966,” said 1st Lt. Brian Heeter, a CH-46 pilot with HMMT-164. “That proves that it’s a workhorse, and that it has done great things for the Marine Corps and the United States as a whole.”
The CH-46 has been used in military missions for nearly 50 years, and now is passing the torch to the Osprey. The versatility of the tiltrotor aircraft to serve as both a traditional helicopter and a propeller plane has deemed its worth in replacing its historical counterpart.
“I think it’s an honor to carry on the legacy of those before us whom have flown [the Sea Knight] into combat,” said Heeter. “All the hard work it’s done for the Marine Corps makes it an honor to fly.”
The 3rd Marine Aircraft wing is home to three remaining CH-46 squadrons. With only a handful of squadrons left, all Sea Knight squadrons will eventually transition to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadrons.
Earning the title pilot was no small feat for Singleton. He dutifully worked to keep his dream alive amongst the struggle of a drug-addicted mother’s arrest and the untimely death of his father.
Singleton would not be defeated. Despite unfortunate circumstances, the Decatur, Ga., native was a star athlete and valedictorian in high school. He continued his courageous journey while attending the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Now he holds another honor, CH-46 pilot.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Singleton, the Marine Corps’ newest and last CH-46 pilot. “I was in the right place at the right time and I was ready for the moment. But really I’m standing on the shoulders of so many before me. I know there are a lot of men and women who gave their life to make this the platform they did today.”
Living his lifelong dream, Singleton can proudly claim a piece of history as the last CH-46 pilot.