The Laughlin Heritage Corner with the 47 FTW Historian
By 47 Flying Training Wing Historian, 47th Flying Training Wing
/ Published February 20, 2020
LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Here at Laughlin, we started training pilots for the first time in February 1943. We had spent all summer and fall in 1942 constructing and preparing the base for occupation, and it was finally time to fly. These first classes were small and had irregular start dates, but this was the very beginning of our training mission. In these early days, we taught pilots and co-pilots how to fly bombers—WW2-era B-26 Marauders, to be precise—and these first classes lasted about four-and-a-half weeks. Over the course of World War 2, nearly 3,000 bomber pilots would graduate from Laughlin.
In addition to training our very first pilots this month in 1943, some other big historical events that took place here at Laughlin in February include:
- On 3 Feb 1995, 25 years ago, Laughlin utilized a T-1 to save lives in our first-ever use of a T-1 for an emergency medical evacuation. A patient who was pregnant experienced a neonatal emergency, and had to be transported to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Randolph AFB for a procedure that could not be completed locally. They were successfully delivered to the Medical Center in San Antonio, utilizing special prototype T-1 stretchers designed by Flight Surgeon Capt Greg Gardner, and both mother and baby survived!
- On 12 Feb 1964, the first runway supervisory unit in the entire Air Force opened at Laughlin AFB. This unit was special because it permitted simultaneous control of both runways from a single operating area where controllers could coordinate and work together. They were also able to do this from a vantage point that provided good visibility of the entire operating surface.
- On 15 Feb 2017, 47 MDG Commander Col Thatcher Cardon won NASA’s “Space Poop Challenge” by devising an innovative way to help astronauts manage their waste in a spacesuit for up to six continuous days! Nearly 20,000 people from all over the world submitted more than 5,000 ideas for managing astronaut waste, and Laughlin’s solution was the very best one. Col Cardon was inspired by minimally invasive surgical techniques like laparoscopy and arthroscopy to equip astronauts with a way to jettison waste through very small openings (complete with airlocks) in the crotch of the suit. His design even lets them change their underwear through the small opening in the space suit if they need to—all without compromising the suit!
- Laughlin’s Maintenance Squadron began to transition from a military function to an all-civil service operation on 20 Feb 1989. Laughlin was the very first AETC (then just “ATC”) UPT wing to make this transition.
- On 22 Feb 2016, a disastrous thunderstorm brought 60+ mph wind gusts and golf ball-sized hail to Laughlin, wreaking havoc across the base. We’re only just now getting to be about fully recovered from all the damage it did, particularly to our airplanes.
- Finally, on 25 Feb 1981, 2d Lt Kimberly Baird became the 47 FTW’s first female graduate when she graduated with 46 other pilots as part of Class 81-03.
Every month, we’ll highlight new Laughlin history, new Laughlin stories, and new Laughlin anniversaries, so be sure to check back again for more in March!