It was a day of historical significance as 10 new Air Force pilots received their wings after graduating from the first Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5 program March 19, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
Instructors from the 559th Flying Training Squadron implemented training for Air Education and Training Command‘s first UPT 2.5 class, which began in July 2020. Using the T-6A Texan II as the primary trainer aircraft, the first class completed training in only seven months.
Graduates of Class 21-06 came from a wide range of Air Force talent, from second lieutenants with only initial flight training skills to seasoned Air Force captains with remotely piloted aircraft and cyber warfare experience.
“It feels amazing having graduated, best feeling in the world,” said 2nd Lt. Nathanial Welch, a graduate pilot who is now headed to Detachment 24 at JBSA-Randolph, where he will learn fighter fundamentals.
“We completed a very difficult program and I am honored to have been on the ground floor of UPT 2.5 and pilot training transformation,” said 1st Lt. Adam Pauley, graduate of Class 21-06.
UPT 2.5 is one of the initiatives that all make up pilot training transformation.
“Taking lessons learned from Pilot Training Next, the goal, to produce the same caliber of pilots and enable them to enter formal training earlier and with an increased skill set,” said Col. Robert Moschella, 12th Operations Group commander. “In practice, the students in Class 21-06 received more instructional time through a combination of flight and simulator hours than students in the current UPT program.
“I’m very proud of the team at the 12th Flying Training Wing who worked hard to transform an idea into a world-class pilot training program,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “Our instructor cadre answered the call to innovate and through their hard work we’ve been able to put in place the first pieces of the pilot training system of the future. Their efforts will set the stage for continued transformation across our entire Air Force. Our students have performed very well and have also played an important role in helping us implement new concepts and validate our ideas. Our entire Air Force should be proud of these new graduates.”
A vital key to the success of the first UPT 2.5 class was the use of a synchronized cloud-based user experience. This allowed students early access to information and increased their use of remote learning, through virtual instruction and the use of immersive training devices. ITDs offered the students better visualizations of tasks during flying formation, and it offered the opportunity to practice the associated tasks with increased cognitive repetitions.
Lt. Col. Ronald Knight, 559th Flying Training Squadron commander, attributed the class’s success to changing how student pilots were taught.
“Changing our mindset from ‘instructor-student’ to ‘coach-athlete’ might be one of the most important changes we make in this transition,” he said. “Transitioning to a student-centered learning culture takes time, but is already showing incredible results.”
With four UPT 2.5 classes remaining in the training pipeline, instructors at the 559th FTS continue to train Air Force instructor pilots, while also executing a new mission in UPT 2.5 instruction.
“One of the biggest challenges has been managing the increased operations tempo for UPT 2.5 while maintaining our Pilot Instructor Training throughput,” Wills said. “The Billy Goats and the 12th Flying Training Wing have absolutely crushed this challenge, and I truly appreciate their efforts.”