Priest Pilots Tour the 171st
By Airman Kyle Brooks, 171st Air Refueling Wing
/ Published July 22, 2016
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- The National Association of Priest Pilots attended a tour of facilities and an aircraft at the 171st Air Refueling Wing on July 13.
The group consisting of 30+ priests who are also pilots sharing enthusiasm for faith and aviation. These similarities bring them together from all across the country to the 171st as a part of their annual convention.
Along with the group were two retired members of the 171st. Jack Fitzgerald served as a Chaplain during his time at the 171st and Joe Ficerai served as a pilot.
The priest pilots started their tour with a briefing from the 171st Commander, Col. Gregg A. Perez. The briefing explained the history and mission of the 171st, followed by a question and answer session where the priest pilots talked to the commander directly.
Next was the opportunity to try the boom operator simulator. The priests were given guidance by Master Sgt. Michael Worthington, a boom operator with the 171st operations group. The simulator consists of a virtual refueling mission from the boom pod that the priest pilots helped fly. This showed them what technology and capabilities we have today.
The last stop on the tour was a walkthrough on a KC-135 Stratotankers. The group was showed different parts of the aircraft by Lt. Col. Jack C. Barnes, a pilot with the 171st. The priests got their chance to sit in the cockpit, examine flight instruments and even lay in the boom pod.
"When aviation is in your blood, it's a passion," said Barnes
The priest pilots share bonds through spirituality and flying which are easily relatable to military members.