Italian exchange pilot first to fly A-10C Thunderbolt II

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Capitano (Capt.) Maurizio De Guida grew up in Italy directly under the approach path for aircraft landing at the Naples Capodichino International Airport.

Now, he is one of only three Italian exchange pilots in the U.S. and the first Italian to fly the A-10C Thunderbolt II, an aircraft made for a similar function but much larger than an AMX, the fighter plane he flies at home.

"I've wanted to fly my whole life and this experience being stationed with Americans has been very educational for me," said Captain De Guida, Italian exchange pilot with the 74th Fighter Squadron pilot. "Although we're thousands of miles from my home, there's something I've noticed- fighter pilots all over the world have the same mentality. It's amazing."

The captain's three-year tour here started in 2009 and it only took him a couple months to figure out his new aircraft. He was hand-chosen by his squadron commander at the time.

"The overall configuration of air-to-ground attack jets is pretty similar, and landing gear levers and throttles do the same things," he said. "So I just had to learn the things in an A-10C that were different from the AMX and then I was able to start really flying and learning new techniques."

Even though Captain De Guida has learned a lot from the pilots here, they've also learned many things from him.

"Captain De Guida is a wealth of knowledge with his experience as a flight leader and mission commander," said Capt. Jarett Biggers, 74th FS instructor pilot. "He has an outside perspective that he brings to this squadron and that has opened our eyes to the different ways other air forces might operate."

Captain De Guida's Italian coworkers also had praise for him, including a former Italian exchange pilot.

"He is one of the most motivated Italian fighter pilots and his fighter attitude has been evident since he was a young student," said Tenente Colonnello (Lt. Col.) Roberto Magnani, 13th Fighter Squadron commander from Amendola Air Base, Italy. "I've been impressed with his performance since I was his instructor pilot through when I was his squadron commander. Once I had to propose a pilot for this pilot exchange program, I had no hesitation about it."

Colonel Magnani previously flew F-16s. Captain De Guida says his coworkers are proud of him, and his family is too, although for a different reason.

"My mom is a mom, so she worries a lot about me being a fighter pilot," he said, "but both her and my fiancé support me and are happy because they can see I am happy living this great experience. Being here is also beneficial for my career."

The captain has been engaged for about six years now, which he considers a long time by both American and Italian standards.

"I'm proud that my fiancé is proud of me," said Captain De Guida. "She's finishing up law school now and plans to move here possibly later this year. It'll be nice to finally have her living close and getting the chance to learn about American culture."

One of the things he finds most interesting about America is the concept of space here.

"In Italy, we have about 60 million people living on land half the size of Texas," said Captain De Guida. "Here, there are 300 million people living on land much larger than that. Large back yards here are common, but in Italy they are a sign of wealth since space is so limited."

The extra space here is also put to good use for fighter pilots, he said.

"There are lots of nice areas and ranges available for us to practice on," the captain said. "The best training opportunity I've had is when we participated in exercise COMBAT HAMMER and I completed my initial qualifications. I got to practice with some real mavericks and it was a lot of fun."

This assignment is not his first trip to the U.S. He participated in initial training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, during which he learned to fly jets and speak English.

"I came here with a very limited knowledge of English," said Captain De Guida. "I knew a couple phrases but I had only taken a couple classes during high school and a bit more at the(Italian) Air Force Academy. Back then, I was young and it was my dream to experience another country. Now, I'm back here again and having a wonderful experience."

The other two Italian exchange pilots currently operate a C-130 Hercules and a remotely piloted aircraft.