HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Four children and their families from Make-A-Wish Utah visited the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base and earned their wings during a "Pilot for a Day" program here Oct. 18.
Make-A-Wish grants the life-changing wishes of children battling a critical illness. Spending a day alongside men and women who serve in a close-knit, advanced military unit is something that the children and their families enjoyed and won’t soon forget.
“Opportunities like this really give the kids a break from the medical journey they are on. It gives them something to look forward to and something to remember - especially the friendships they make with the pilots,” said Jenny Hortin, volunteer manager with Make-A-Wish Utah. “It’s always so exciting when the 388th reaches out to us.”
As they arrived in the morning, the guests each received a flight suit, name tags and patches. The suits were waiting for them in the Aircrew Flight Equipment Area, along with pilots from the Air Force's first combat capable F-35A fighter wing.
As they zipped up their new flight suits and attached their patches, kids were paired up with a pilot to learn about being an Airman.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come together and support them and to show them a day in the life of our wing and our mission,” said Capt. Buck Horn.
The "wish kids" got hands-on with F-35A flight equipment, including an advanced helmet with integrating night vision, noise cancelling headphones, and a heads-up display projected onto the visor, which is tied into all of the jet's vital systems.
The families received an inside education as they walked and talked with pilots around the F-35 prior to watching takeoffs and landings from the side of the runway. They also had a chance to sit in an F-35A cockpit trainer to see the advanced displays and controls pilots use to fly, track and target enemy aircraft.
“It’s been awesome. My favorite part was watching the takeoffs,” said Brody H., a child in the Make-A-Wish program. “You could feel it in your chest.”