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Local boy becomes ‘Pilot for a Day’

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Frances Kriss
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A 9-year-old boy got off an aircraft simulator and said, "I hope I'll remember this for the rest of my life."

That boy from Grayland, Wash., is battling cystic fibrosis and recently had an opportunity to sport a flight suit and step into the shoes of an Airman when he visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of the Pilot for a Day program.

Evan Waara, "Pilot for a Day" and soon-to-be 4th grader, was hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing's 4th Airlift Squadron. The purpose of the program is to devote an entire day for local children with serious or chronic conditions and give them a chance to experience the Air Force firsthand. Participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community hospital or foster program.

"It makes me so proud that we, in the 4th Airlift Squadron, are part of something bigger than our mission," said Maj. Michael Masuda, 4th AS pilot and program coordinator. "I really enjoyed taking Evan around and bringing light to a child who has faced many health challenges."

During the visit, Evan was able to watch a military working dog demonstration by the 627th Security Forces Squadron, interact with the 627th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal unit, visit the air traffic control tower, eat lunch with the 4th AS and get an up-close look at a C-17 Globemaster III.

"We are very thankful that Evan was given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Carl and Liisa Waara, Evan's parents. "Seeing him experience everything was really neat and everybody we've met has been so friendly and welcoming."

Other highlights of Evan's day included "flying" in a C-17 aircraft simulator and being strapped on a virtual reality parachute simulator, where he practiced "parachuting" in different environments.

"My favorite part was flying the C-17," said Evan. "It was so cool and I didn't crash!"

After the C-17 aircraft simulator, Evan left with more than his very own flight suit and Air Force memorabilia from the different units, he went home with a very big smile on his face.

"I'm so glad that Evan had a great time," said Major Masuda. "I hope that he will remember this for the rest of his life."

The original "Pilot for a Day" program began in December 1994, organized by Captain Rory "Ox" Blackburn at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The concept has since spread to several bases across the country, including the 62nd AW at JBLM.