April 29, 2011 (by Maj. Gabe Johnson) - Four months after starting up an F-16 pilot training program at the 162nd Fighter Wing, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is graduating new pilots and showing the international media how it's done.
Lt. Daniel, a student pilot from the RNlAF, takes off in F-16AM #J-019 at Tucson IAP on April 28th, 2011. [USAF photo by MSgt. Dave Neve]
A 10-member press delegation from the Netherlands
visited Tucson International Airport April 28-29 to cover the wing's Dutch training program. Reporters interviewed U.S. and Dutch instructors as well as student pilots while photographers captured virtually every aspect of flight training.
"Our visit here was great," said Dutch Air Force Maj. Kirsten Beek, a public affairs officer from Air Base Leeuwarden, Netherlands. "It was good for the press to see our Air Force working together with the Americans and see an integrated program."
Dutch pilots were the first in a long line of international students to train with the 162nd. Starting in 1989, they were a foundation program at the Arizona Air National Guard unit for 18 years until they moved to Springfield, Ohio, for a three-year agreement to train with the Ohio Air National Guard's 178th Fighter Wing.
Upon their return to Tucson in January, they brought with them 14 of their own jets to participate in basic F-16 flight training as well as advanced courses such as flight lead upgrade and instructor pilot certification.
"So far, I'd give the program a grade of 'excellent' overall," said Lt. Col Doug Hadley, operations officer for the 148th Fighter Squadron, "the jets are flying very well and we're ahead on our student training line."
The current three-year contract with the Netherlands allocates most of the squadron's 3,000 annual flying hours to train 10 basic course students per year with the remainder to be distributed among veteran Dutch pilots who need advanced courses or re-qualification training.
"Dutch students are hard working, knowledgeable, well prepared and easy to work with," he said. "We have five students that just graduated from the basic course and have started advanced training, and we have five more students that just arrived for the basic training."
Over the next few months, resulting coverage should appear in international magazines such as Code One, Air Forces Monthly, Air International, and Combat Aircraft. Stories will also appear in Dutch publications such as Panorama, Defense Newspaper, and The Flying Dutchman.
"The most important thing we want to accomplish with this coverage is to show current operations - what it takes to keep the F-16s flying, what it takes to train our pilots - while looking into the future needs of our Air Force," said Major Beek. "I think we succeeded in that."