Pilot for a day
By Senior Airman Dylan Nuckolls, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 10, 2016
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Airmen from across Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, came together to host a Virginia teenager with a rare chronic illness during a Pilot for a Day event here, Feb. 5, 2016.
Michael Oliver, diagnosed with Erdheim-Chester Disease, a disease with no known cure, experienced what it is like to be a pilot for a day along with friends and family.
"This has been an amazing opportunity for him to get out and see things he would never imagine he would get to see," said Jessica Colon, Oliver's mother. "I could never thank them enough, I would love to just tell them that it means the world to us and I appreciate everything that they've done to make this day so wonderful for our family."
Oliver, raising his right hand, took the Pilot for a Day Oath administered by Col. Julie Grundahl, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews vice commander.
Oliver's day included touring an assortment of aircraft including an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, KC-135 Stratotanker and aUH-1N Huey helicopter.
Dressed in a flight suit sitting by his wingman Maj. Tommy Shea, 811th Operations Support Squadron flight commander, Oliver got his chance at flying a UH-1N Huey helicopter in a simulator.
"It looked like I was steering okay but my landing was not so good," Oliver said, noting that he would need more training.
The day also included a military working dog demonstration, a tour of the aircraft control tower and a demonstration by the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department.
"I want Michael to come away from this day knowing that the men and women of the Air Force here at JBA support him," said Lt. Col. Rob Balzano, 201st Airlift Squadron C-40 pilot and Pilot for a Day coordinator.
At the end of the day, Oliver received various presentations from Airmen and members of the JBA community including a letter from President Barack Obama.
Reflecting on the day, Oliver was speechless.
"I don't even know what to say, I am still kind of in shock," he said. "I just want to say thank you very much."