The Air Force’s 344th Training Squadron Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence graduated the first basic flight engineer class, comprised completely of non-prior service students, Dec. 13.
Nine students began training Nov 8. and all of them earned their wings, becoming the first class in the history of the flight engineer three-level technical school course to become career enlisted aviator basic flight engineers.
“My classmates and I put in a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Airman 1st Class Timothy Fox, flight engineer graduate. “Coming into it we knew we were going to be challenged and we met those challenges. We are extremely proud to be here and extremely proud to be part of air crew.”
For decades following World War II, until the mid-2000s, an individual could only apply to become a flight engineer after serving in a maintenance career field. In the late 2000s, the Air Force began allowing Airmen from career fields outside of maintenance to apply for flight engineer duty, with exception to policy approval. The active component had not yet opened up a pipeline for non-prior service Airmen to become flight engineers, until now.
These aviators will man air crew positions on aircraft, where they’ll be responsible for monitoring and controlling aircraft systems, computing aircraft performance, calculating weight and balance and cross checking pilot actions. Aircraft assignments include: KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy, E-3 Sentry, E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (STARS) and C-130 Hercules.
“I taught differently to adapt to younger students, but all-in-all they worked just as hard,” said Technical Sgt. Coty McCuddin, BFE course instructor. “These guys are hard workers, they’re hungry and they want to go fly. I expect great things from them.”
The flight engineer career field dates back to World War II, when experienced mechanics and maintenance personnel flew aboard larger aircraft, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar B-29 Superfortress.
“This morning you (Airmen) are joining a family over 13,000 aviators,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Arroyo, CEA COE commandant. “When you look down at the wings on your chest, I want you to realize that you will never fly on an aircraft again and not be part of the aircrew. Have fun with this journey, I wish you the best of luck.”