LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Capt. Dane Richards, 434th Flying Training Squadron category check instructor pilot, was chosen by wing leadership to be the XLer of the week, for the week of Jan. 31, 2018, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
The XLer award, presented by Col. Charlie Velino, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission.
Richards, a native of College Station, Texas, describes his job as quality control for phase two of pilot training. According to him, at the end of the block, students take a check ride where—without instructor pilot input—they are supposed to demonstrate proficiency in a variety of maneuvers, ranging from aerobatics to instrument procedures and formation flying.
“Category check instructor pilots evaluate the student and assign grades to everything the student does, from how they brief through how they fly and [then] finishing with a ground evaluation consisting of randomly selected general knowledge questions and an emergency procedures scenario,” Richards said.
Another of Richard’s undertakings was creating an instructional fundamentals guide to serve as reference techniques he found helpful.
“The techniques described in it aren't necessarily ground-breaking, however a lot of them are things that simply take time to learn and incorporate into how an instructor teaches,” Richards said. “That way a new instructor pilot will at least be able to have an idea of where to start and if they're interested in learning more, they won't have to search for long to find it.”
Richards also executed four-ship flyovers, two runway supervisory unit tours, three theater indoctrination sorties, three category checks and a functional check flight upgrade. This contributed to Richards growing and improving as an instructor pilot while adding to the wing mission.
“Flying four-ship is somewhat rare but always valuable for T-6 pilots since we don't teach it to our students, it's purely for our own proficiency” Richards said. “Because of that, we put a lot of emphasis on doing everything we can to the highest level of quality to sharpen our skills as pilots. Due to [the] daily grind of flying instructional sorties, we may not get very much time actually flying ourselves so it's a nice break to go back to the basics.”
Richards’ occupation requires much—yet he regularly goes above and beyond his primary duties of training the world’s best military pilots, an example of excellence.