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Instructing helps commander make history

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. - Lt. Col. Mark Hess, 3rd Flying Training Squadron commander, briefs 2nd Lt. Paul Lopez prior to a flight Jan. 17. Colonel Hess made history Jan. 19 by becoming the first Air Education and Training Command squadron commander to attain 1,000 flying hours in the T-6A Texan II. (Photo by Senior Airman S.I. Fielder)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. - Lt. Col. Mark Hess, 3rd Flying Training Squadron commander, briefs 2nd Lt. Paul Lopez prior to a flight Jan. 17. Colonel Hess made history Jan. 19 by becoming the first Air Education and Training Command squadron commander to attain 1,000 flying hours in the T-6A Texan II. (Photo by Senior Airman S.I. Fielder)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Being an instructor pilot is sometimes like a parent teaching his fearless teenager to drive.

“It’s very much the same thing, except it’s in three dimensions,” said Lt. Col. Mark Hess, commander of the 3rd Flying Training Squadron here. “As you fly with the students, you become convinced they have no fear of death. We tell them in the beginning if they continue like that, it’s going to be a very bad day.”

His dedication to ensuring his students learn how to “drive,” helped Colonel Hess make Air Education and Training Command history when he became the first squadron commander to attain 1,000 flying hours in the T-6A Texan II Thursday.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Colonel Hess, who has been at Moody for about three and a half years. “Because of the jobs I’ve had, I don’t get to fly very much. Not as much as I would like to.”

Performing the mission, however, is how Colonel Hess accomplished the career milestone.

“The thousandth hour (was) with a student … doing the job,” said Colonel Hess, who has more than 3,600 flying hours in bomber and trainer aircraft. “Not many people get to achieve this milestone actually doing the mission they’re assigned to do.”

The 3rd FTS’ mission is to give student pilots the basics of how to fly and is considered phase two of their pilot training. Phase one consists of academics, while phase three delves into specialized training.

“In the phase two piece, we teach them everything they will ever need to know about being a pilot,” said Colonel Hess, a native of Moline, Ill. “It doesn’t mean they don’t compound that quite extensively in phase three.

“The basis upon what they build all of their future training happens in four months at the 3rd Flying Training Squadron or our sister squadrons throughout the command,” the colonel continued.

Student pilots learn essential flying techniques, such as take-offs, landings, basic pattern work, how to handle emergencies and formation flying.

Mistakes during a training portion can cause a student to get “busted”, which means they must retrain prior to their final check ride.

“I flew a pretty good sortie that was probably good overall except for the take-off,” said 2nd Lt. Jarrod Jones. “On take-off, I didn’t push the power up enough, which created an unsafe condition for my wingman.”

Student pilots understand it’s important to be on their “A-game” when they fly with Colonel Hess. They also know flying with the squadron commander is very rewarding, said Lieutenant Jones.

“He’s a great IP,” he said. “He actually teaches you the importance of everything, which helps you better understand the priorities of flying. I learned the most flying with him than I did flying with any single IP.”

Although students may not have many opportunities to fly with Colonel Hess due to his commander job duties, they do get the opportunity to learn from a commander who shows how important the mission is at Moody.

“Moody is an outstanding pilot-training base,” said Colonel Hess, whose favorite hobby is flying, but enjoys golfing when away from the office. “Everything - from the support we get from the (347th Rescue) Wing to the airspace to the relationship with the community - is all conducive to a great pilot-training base.”