Becoming a Pilot for a Day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mason Hargrove
  • 56th Fighter Wing

The 56th Fighter Wing welcomed Isaac “Axe-Man” Salinas from Make-A-Wish Arizona to become a pilot for a day, Oct. 13, 2023, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

The Pilot for a Day program aims to provide children from Make-A-Wish with an uplifting experience and a break from their daily challenges.

“Wishes wouldn’t be able to come true without our partnerships like Luke AFB,” said Sawyer Kilen, Make-a-Wish Arizona senior director. “It means so much to kids like Isaac to be able to come out and see behind the scenes of something he really enjoys.”

Upon arrival, Isaac was welcomed and given a flight suit, representing his honorary pilot status for the day.

The adventure commenced with a guided tour of the 61st Fighter Squadron, where Isaac received an up-close F-35A Lightning II tour and even got the rare chance to sit in the cockpit.

A visit to the Air Traffic Control Tower provided Isaac with a panoramic view of the flightline and jets taking off; a sight embodying the essence of airpower.

The next stops were an F-16 Fighting Falcon training simulator immersion, and a tour of Aircrew Flight Equipment, showcasing the technical aspects of a pilot’s gear and safety equipment.

Lunch at Club 56 offered an interaction with base personnel before finishing off the day with a meeting with Col. Keagan McLeese, 56th Fighter Wing deputy commander.

“Being at Luke and seeing everything up close has been amazing,” said Isaac “Axe-man” Salinas, Luke AFB Pilot for a Day participant. “Sitting in the cockpit of the F-35A was one of the coolest parts.”

This partnership highlights the impact of community partnerships with organizations such as Make-A-Wish and provides an unforgettable experience for kids like Isaac.