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Make-A-Wish Pilot-for-a-Day Initiative Touching Lives

One Day’s Grace

The USAF’s 56th Fighter Wing welcomed Isaac Axe-Man Salinas who, by virtue of the efforts put forth by Make-A-Wish Arizona, became pilot-for-a-day on 13 October 2023 at the Grand Canyon State’s Luke Air Force Base.

The Pilot-for-a-Day program is a Make-A-Wish initiative by which children are afforded an experience that might be referred to half-punningly as uplifting, yet very genuinely as a break from oftentimes excruciating daily challenges.

Make-a-Wish Arizona senior director Sawyer Kilen stated: “Wishes wouldn’t be able to come true without our partnerships like Luke AFB. 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 arriving at the base, Salinas was welcomed and given a flight suit, representing his honorary pilot status.

The young man’s adventure commenced with a guided tour of the 61st Fighter Squadron’s facilities and equipment, during which he was granted an up-close look at the F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter aircraft—to include an almost unheard-of sit-down in the cockpit thereof.

A subsequent visit to the base’s VFR Control Tower provided Salinas a panoramic view of the flightline and transpiring flight operations.

Thereafter, Isaac was conveyed to an F-16 simulator in which he was given a taste of flying the still-relevant General Dynamics aircraft.

A presentation of Aircrew Flight Equipment followed, during which Salinas was familiarized with the cockpit gear and safety equipment to which combat pilots entrust their lives.

Lunch at Club 56 was seasoned with interactions with base personnel and capped with a meeting with 56th Fighter Wing deputy commander Colonel Keagan McLeese.

Axe-Man Salinas remarked: “Being at Luke and seeing everything up close has been amazing. Sitting in the cockpit of the F-35A was one of the coolest parts.”

Isaac Salinas’s experience at Luke AFB instantiates the value inherent community partnerships with organizations the likes of Make-A-Wish. Similarly, the USAF’s munificence speaks to the essential decency extant, still, in a people and nation divided.



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