Wichita boy becomes pilot for a day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Inside of a dimly lit KC-135 Stratotanker, an eleven-year-old boy was lying inside of the padded boom pod. His eyes were darting back-and-forth between the various knobs and switches on the control panel while rattling off questions to the Airman next to him.

Cole Clifton was constantly making the most of his opportunity to be the 349th Air Refueling Squadron's Pilot for a Day Sept, 2012.

The Pilot for a Day program allows children with serious or life-threatening illnesses and their families to meet and interact with personnel from a variety of units at the base and get hands-on demonstrations of aircraft and equipment.

Cole was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2011, and received a bone marrow transplant soon after. He has been in remission for more than a year.

Upon arrival, he was given an official flight suit to wear and an official 349th ARS squadron patch. Cole, his mother and older brother were then given a tour of McConnell by several Airmen from the 349th ARS.

The first stop was the boom air refueling simulator, where Cole was able to simulate refueling aircraft.

"I liked the simulator the most," said Cole. "I was really good at fueling the planes and making contact."

Other stops included a tour of a KC-135, a military working dog presentation and a visit to the fire station.

He received several different squadron patches and coins as an honorary 349th ARS "Bandit." More than two dozen Airmen from different squadrons celebrated the day with Cole and his family, expressing gratitude for their visit.

"This was an absolutely fantastic opportunity," said Lt. Col. Jeff Goggin, 349th ARS commander. "Just getting to see the smiles on everyone's faces and know how happy he is makes it worth it."