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A day in the life of an instructor pilot during COVID-19

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, cycles in place for his morning workout, April 23, 2020 in Del Rio, Texas. To him, biking isn’t about the exercise as much as it’s about the ability to be present--not wrapped up in the past or future. For many whose schedules are altered due to quarantine, there is more time to pursue fitness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, cycles in place for his morning workout, April 23, 2020 in Del Rio, Texas. To him, biking isn’t about the exercise as much as it’s about the ability to be present--not wrapped up in the past or future. For many whose schedules are altered due to quarantine, there is more time to pursue fitness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, Candice White, his wife and Dylan their daughter, spend some quality time together before work, April 23, 2020 in Del Rio, Texas. During quarantine, they enjoy going on walks, playing in the living room and video chatting with family who lives farther away. “Spending time with my family has always been important to me and is even more important now,” White said. “This pandemic has made me more thankful for the small things in life and appreciative of the present.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, Candice White, his wife and Dylan their daughter, spend some quality time together before work, April 23, 2020 in Del Rio, Texas. During quarantine, they enjoy going on walks, playing in the living room and video chatting with family who lives farther away. “Spending time with my family has always been important to me and is even more important now,” White said. “This pandemic has made me more thankful for the small things in life and appreciative of the present.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

An X flight, also known as Lightning flight, of the 434th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, patch rests on the back of a chair in the flight commander’s office. As a flight commander, Capt. Joshua White, 434th FTS instructor pilot, is among the first echelons responsible for safely and efficiently scheduling people, the mission, and aircraft. His job is to keep the flight pointed in the right direction and enable his instructor pilots to do their jobs. He also reports directly to his commander with trends, potential scheduling issues, and the overall "health" of the flight. “This has been by far the most rewarding job I have had in the Air Force, and although very demanding and exhausting, the people in the flight make it all worthwhile, White said. “We have to be as transparent as possible and let the students know we are all in this together. It will not be the first time in their career that they are faced with difficult times, so it's important to remind them why they choose to come here and keep them focused on the prize and not the pandemic.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

An X flight, also known as Lightning flight, of the 434th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, patch rests on the back of a chair in the flight commander’s office. As a flight commander, Capt. Joshua White, 434th FTS instructor pilot, is among the first echelons responsible for safely and efficiently scheduling people, the mission, and aircraft. His job is to keep the flight pointed in the right direction and enable his instructor pilots to do their jobs. He also reports directly to his commander with trends, potential scheduling issues, and the overall "health" of the flight. “This has been by far the most rewarding job I have had in the Air Force, and although very demanding and exhausting, the people in the flight make it all worthwhile, White said. “We have to be as transparent as possible and let the students know we are all in this together. It will not be the first time in their career that they are faced with difficult times, so it's important to remind them why they choose to come here and keep them focused on the prize and not the pandemic.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Lt. Col. Brian Tripp, 434th Flying Training Squadron director of operations, gathers with Capt. Joshua White, 434th FTS X flight commander and instructor pilot, and others for a meeting, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “Just like much of the world we feel like we are all in this together, and we are prepared to do anything we can to help the instructor pilots and students,” White said. “As a flight commander my main concern right now is to take care of my instructors and students. If they feel like we don’t care or if they are worried for their safety they will not be able to meet their full potential every day. We need them focused on safety and training.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Lt. Col. Brian Tripp, 434th Flying Training Squadron director of operations, gathers with Capt. Joshua White, 434th FTS X flight commander and instructor pilot, and others for a meeting, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “Just like much of the world we feel like we are all in this together, and we are prepared to do anything we can to help the instructor pilots and students,” White said. “As a flight commander my main concern right now is to take care of my instructors and students. If they feel like we don’t care or if they are worried for their safety they will not be able to meet their full potential every day. We need them focused on safety and training.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, uses a paper map of the local flying area to brief a student before their flight, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “Pilot training is inherently stressful as is and COVID-19 definitely adds another layer--especially on a personal level,” White said. “We all have a friend or family member who is high risk and that concern plays into students’ everyday life in pilot training.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, uses a paper map of the local flying area to brief a student before their flight, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “Pilot training is inherently stressful as is and COVID-19 definitely adds another layer--especially on a personal level,” White said. “We all have a friend or family member who is high risk and that concern plays into students’ everyday life in pilot training.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

2nd Lt. Roderick Byars, 47 Student Squadron student pilot, and Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, walk out on the flightline, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, to a T-6A Texan II, the aircraft the 434th FTS trains with. The specialized undergraduate pilot training students still complete the same number of tests, simulations and flights despite COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

2nd Lt. Roderick Byars, 47 Student Squadron student pilot, and Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, walk out on the flightline, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, to a T-6A Texan II, the aircraft the 434th FTS trains with. The specialized undergraduate pilot training students still complete the same number of tests, simulations and flights despite COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Roderick Byars, 47 Student Squadron student pilot, prepare a T-6A Texan II for flight, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The biggest impact White is seeing the Coronavirus take on students and instructors is the ever-changing schedule, which White says they are overcoming by staying flexible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Roderick Byars, 47 Student Squadron student pilot, prepare a T-6A Texan II for flight, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The biggest impact White is seeing the Coronavirus take on students and instructors is the ever-changing schedule, which White says they are overcoming by staying flexible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, stands in front of a T-6 Texan II, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, wearing his mask around his neck. White finds being an instructor pilot during the COVID-19 pandemic proves a challenge while following safety guidances. “As an instructor pilot, it’s our job to be in close proximity to many people--students, other instructors, and maintainers,” White said. “It’s been difficult to find the balance between social distancing and being an effective instructor.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, stands in front of a T-6 Texan II, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, wearing his mask around his neck. White finds being an instructor pilot during the COVID-19 pandemic proves a challenge while following safety guidances. “As an instructor pilot, it’s our job to be in close proximity to many people--students, other instructors, and maintainers,” White said. “It’s been difficult to find the balance between social distancing and being an effective instructor.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

First Lt. Kimberly Bray, Capt. Joshua White, 1st Lt. Max Kaslon and Capt. Mike Beachamp, 434th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilots, walk out from work together after a long day of training, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. White says it’s important to have a support group, whether one is a student or otherwise. “At times my support network is the only thing that keeps me pressing forward,” White said. “A network of people who understand what I’m going through and are not afraid to ask the tough questions or tell me what I need to hear--not what I want to hear. They have helped me get through the tough times and kept me focused on the big picture.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

First Lt. Kimberly Bray, Capt. Joshua White, 1st Lt. Max Kaslon and Capt. Mike Beachamp, 434th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilots, walk out from work together after a long day of training, April 23, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. White says it’s important to have a support group, whether one is a student or otherwise. “At times my support network is the only thing that keeps me pressing forward,” White said. “A network of people who understand what I’m going through and are not afraid to ask the tough questions or tell me what I need to hear--not what I want to hear. They have helped me get through the tough times and kept me focused on the big picture.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas--COVID-19 has impacted millions in their work routine not only in the U.S. but the world. 

Here at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Airmen do not go on as normal, yet they still work tirelessly to get the mission done.

Part of the mission is producing the world’s best military pilots who are to become the next generation of combat-ready aviators. 

For Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, the biggest impact he’s seeing the Coronavirus take on students and instructors is in the ever-changing schedule. 

“They are doing a good job staying flexible in this time of the unknown,” White said “However, we see the frustration when plans change weekly. It’s difficult for the students to implement what they learned from their previous flight, when flying every other day.”

Specialized undergraduate pilot training is already designed to be intense and stressful, added White, and the presence of COVID-19 takes that existing stress to the next level.

“Pilot training is inherently stressful as is, and COVID-19 definitely adds another layer--especially on a personal level,” White said. “We all have a friend or family member who is high risk and that concern plays into everyday life in pilot training.”

White empathizes with the students and other instructor pilots in the squadron and knows it has become more challenging to cope. 

“Due to social distancing, we are not partaking in the social interactions that would normally help deal with certain issues that occur,” White said. “However, we understand the importance of reaching out and making every instructor pilot available to help with whatever issue is at hand.”

Even though support networks cannot gather in-person like they used to, the squadrons support one another even more during these trying times.

“Just like much of the world we feel like we are all in this together, and we are prepared to do anything we can to help the instructor pilots and students,” White said. “As a flight commander my main concern right now is to take care of my instructors and students. If they feel like we don’t care or if they are worried for their safety they will not be able to meet their full potential every day. We need them focused on safety and training.”

White sees the mission at hand acknowledges there will always be challenges. 

“As far as we are concerned, we have been given our orders and this is just another challenge we have to step up to get the mission done, and I know we will overcome it without the sacrifice of safety or training,” White said. 

In order to continue Laughlin’s flying training mission during COVID-19 safely, flying operations are proceeding six days a week with two teams who split those six days.

“This is ensuring that we’re able to max-produce the world’s greatest pilots, while making sure we protect our greatest asset, which is our Airmen and their families,” said Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing Commander.

Laughlin continues to produce top tier pilots, even with the preventative precautions in place such as social distancing, wearing masks and frequent disinfecting of facilities. Instructor pilot like White make sure this happens day in and day out.