FighterSweep Fans, history has been made at Columbus Air Force Base, in Columbus, Mississippi. The installation is home to the 14th Flying Training Wing, one of Air Education and Training Command’s UPT wings. This past Friday was like any number of Assignment or “Drop” Nights before it, with one very special exception.
On 25 March at approximately 1830 local time, Lieutenant Austin Hornsby was the recipient of the first-ever F-35A Lightning II drop out of Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus, or any other AETC base, for that matter.
We don’t want to spread any bad gouge, but our understanding is Hornsby will now compete with a very select group of students to be named in later drops. It appears to be a very similar to the situation to when the first Raptor B-Course started in November of 2008. Four students got Raptor drops and attended special lead-in training prior to checking in at the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall.
We’ve heard rumors about the status of the B-Course development process, but we’re not sure where all of that is at the current time. It stands to reason the goal would be to grab the “best of the best” students out of UPT and the follow-on IFF curriculum to determine what the optimal learning curve and pace would be for a new guy or gal straight out of UPT.
“Hitman” parks one of the first (of now six) combat-coded F-35A Lightning IIs at Hill AFB, Utah. (Photo by Scott Wolff)
There are a lot of unknowns, but it’s still very exciting news for Lieutenant Hornsby and Team Blaze at Columbus. Congratulations to all, and a special thanks to our friends in the “FAIP Mafia” for the skulls-up.
For those of you interested in seeing the announcement, a video of it can be seen right here.
(Featured photo courtesy of the Columbus AFB Facebook Page)
About the Author
Scott Wolff is an accomplished writer and renowned aviation photojournalist. He has held the position of Managing Editor for a print flying lifestyle magazine, and is the Host and Editor for FighterSweep. Scott's area of expertise is military flight operations, drawing on ten years of experience working extensively with all branches of the armed forces. He holds an FAA pilot certificate, the culmination of a life-long passion for flying airplanes. Scott has received military altitude chamber training, emergency egress training, and has logged time in a variety of civilian and military aircraft. He is also a member of the International Society of Aviation Photographers and Nikon Professional Services.