Kadena’s first-ever Pilot for a Day recipient
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A pilot's son was selected when Kadena hosted its first Pilot for a Day at the 909th Air Refueling Squadron on June 12.
Eleven-year-old, Peter Denham, son of Lt. Col. William Denham, 67th Fighter Squadron commander, had his dream come true when the 909th Air Refueling Squadron showed him a day in the life of a pilot.
The Pilot for a Day program began in December, 1944 at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The program is aimed toward children and young adults with various diseases or disabilities to give them the opportunity to see what it is like on a day-to-day basis for a pilot in the Air Force.
"The youth are our future," said Lt. Col. Jack Flint III, 909th Air Refueling Squadron commander. "We're planting seeds right now; this could be the day that he remembers that vectors him off in a direction that could change his life forever."
Peter was diagnosed with autism and Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder at the age of six, which placed him in the Department of Defense's Exceptional Family Member Program. The EFMP is in charge of selecting the children and young adults eligible for the "Pilot for a Day program.
Peter and his mother, Claudia Denham, were taken to the 909th ARS headquarters where Peter received his very own flight suit and a mock pilot briefing explaining what the plan was for the day. Peter questioned everything he could find to learn as much as he could.
Following the pilot briefing Peter was taken to the flight line to see a KC-135 Stratotanker. He was able to see the engines, boom and landing gear and learn how it all worked together.
Peter was then shown how to get into the plane and went to the tail end with an in-flight refueling journeyman, to learn how the boom operated to refuel planes like his father's F-15 fighter jet.
Capt. Calvin Kress, 909th ARS executive officer and the host pilot for Peter, then showed the cockpit of the plane and explained some of the controls and gauges.
His curiosity continued to flow as he questioned every button and switch he could find.
"What does this red button do?", "What about this switch, lever thingy?", and "What about this spinney joystick thing?" were just a few of the questions Peter asked as soon he got a chance to sit in the pilot's seat.
After the KC-135 walkthrough Peter was taken to the 909th ARS KC-135 Aircrew Training System simulator to get a hands-on experience of how the plane completes its mission here on Kadena. During his simulation flight he was able to see how the plane handles and flies. Peter was also given a chance to land a simulated tanker himself.
Peter was then taken back to the squadron building for a pizza party with Flint and members from the 909th ARS. Flint also gave Peter a "Round Metal Object, or R.M.O." which is more commonly referred to as being "coined" with a squadron coin and a squadron pride T-shirt.
At the end of the day, Peter said that on a scale from one to ten, his day was, "awesome."