JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Team McChord’s newest pilot had a busy first day.
“Pilot for a Day” participant, Stillen Rivera, along with his mother, sister and grandparents, tested out the emergency evacuation hanging harness and climbed to the top of the control tower; they got the chance to try out night vision goggles with the 62nd Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment section and tour the inside of a C-17 after taking the aircraft for a spin in a flight simulator. Last but not least, Stillen received a coveted commander’s coined from Col. Leonard Kosinski, 62nd Airlift Wing commander.
The “Pilot for a Day” program, which has been hosted by Team McChord for several years, provides youth with a limiting disability the opportunity to live out their life-long dreams of aviation and share those memorable experiences with their family by their side.
“This opportunity presented itself to us in a random way,” said Amy Charles, Stillen’s mother. “My sister asked people to send birthday cards to Stillen, and instead they threw him a surprise party. One of the guests asked whether I had heard of the “Pilot for a Day” program; I looked into it, and submitted an application.”
According to Charles, Stillen has always had a deep respect for those who put their lives on the line to protect others. She thought the pilot program was a perfect fit for 15-year-old Stillen.
“Stillen really looks up to military members, police officers, and anyone who goes out of their way to stand up for others, and the things they believe in,” Charles explained.
Though there were many top contenders, the most unforgettable experience of the day was flying the C-17 in the flight simulator for obvious reasons, Stillen said.
“The day was altogether overwhelming,” Charles said. “I think we will still be processing all the amazing things we were able to see and do for weeks to come. It has been an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, and most of all, for Stillen. We are so grateful.”