The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FOUR gained five honorary members Nov. 30. Five children joined the squadron as “pilots for a day” with the help of the Cavett Kids Foundation of Oklahoma City. The children and their parents visited the VQ-4 Shadows for a memorable day.
The children who participate in Pilot for a Day each year have serious, chronic or terminal conditions and are given the opportunity to spend a day with one of Tinker’s flying squadrons.
Lt. j.g. Trevor Smith and Lt. j.g. John Peterson acted as the group’s guides for the day. With the help of former VQ-4 pilot Lt. Michael Toft, the honorary pilots toured an E-6B Mercury aircraft, visited the base fire station and flew in the full motion E-6B simulator.
Each child was issued a flight suit, dog tags, baseball cap, leather “bomber” jacket and a custom squadron patch and nametag with their “call sign” or nickname. VQ-4 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Matthew Maxwell also presented each child with a commander’s coin. This gear came in handy when the kids and their parents walked out to the flight line for the aircraft tour. Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Roach, Naval aircrewman; Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Sylvester; Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Coan, Naval aircrewman and Petty Officer 1st Class Chellby Simpao provided a thorough tour of the plane’s systems to the children and their parents. The children even sat in the cockpit, like a real U.S. Naval aviator does every day.
Lt. Drew Wofford and Lt. j.g. Ryan Romaker assisted by flying each child and his or her parent in the E-6B full-motion simulator for a 20- to 30-minute mission around Oklahoma City. The “flight” included experiencing aerial refueling with a tanker aircraft, various aerobatic maneuvers such as attempting a barrel roll and finished with practice landings. The simulator device has full motion and video capability, and is known as the E-6B Level D-Equivalent Simulator or ELDES. VQ-4 uses the ELDES to closely simulate real-world missions and conditions.
At the fire station, the children received a thorough VIP-style tour. This included climbing into the front and back of a fire truck, playing with the sirens and trying on the full-size, heavyweight firefighting gear. Each pilot was also given an honorary firefighter badge and hat.
“Events like these are a priority for VQ-4 and the U.S. Navy as a whole. Both being involved with and giving back to our community are very important to us,” Peterson said during a moment of downtime during the busy day. VQ-4 Sailors participate in various events like this and commit hundreds of community service hours to the Oklahoma City area every year.
According to Ashley Simpson, executive director of The Cavett Kids Foundation, “The Cavett Kids Foundation has served Oklahoma’s children battling chronic and life-threatening illnesses for over 20 years. We offer camps, programs and special events all completely free of charge to the patients and their families.
“Pilot for a Day is a very special program to our campers because it gives them a chance to get out and just be a kid. They can escape the stress of their disease and feel like a complete VIP. Even if it’s just a day, the memories made at Pilot for a Day last a lifetime.”
To learn more about Cavett Kids and how to get involved visit www.cavettkids.org.