Pilot for a Day Roams with the Nomads
After spending the past few weeks watching "Top Gun" and videos of the F-35 Lightning II, Christian Loafman was ready for his May 18 visit here as its first F-35A Pilot for a Day.
"I feel the need, the need for speed," the 9-year-old said.
The program, which started 26 years ago, allows units to get involved with the community and for children to experience a day in the life of an Air Force pilot. At age two, Christian was diagnosed with progressive infantile scoliosis and autism. Since then, he has had multiple surgeries, wears a brace and attends weekly therapies to overcome his limitations.
Christian's mother, Kerri Loafman, described her son as very outgoing and larger than life, with a love of all things Lego. She shared that her son has been "over the moon" since he was chosen as the 33rd Fighter Wing's first F-35A Pilot for a Day almost two weeks ago.
"We've counted down every single day, every minute," Kerri said. "Every day he would wake up and ask, 'Is today the day?'"
Driving up to the wing, Christian was surprised to see a sign welcoming him to the 33rd FW. Upon arrival they were greeted by Christian's wingman, Maj. Mike Krestyn, the 33rd Operation Support Squadron chief of scheduling, who helped him transform into an F-35A pilot.
The duo's journey began at the 58th Fighter Squadron where the new pilot met the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, and was given his flight suit complete with squadron patches and a nametag.