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Become an instructor pilot for a day…via Instagram

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to fly a mile in a first assignment instructor pilot’s shoes, log into Instagram and make sure your...

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to fly a mile in a first assignment instructor pilot’s shoes, log into Instagram and make sure your seat is in an upright and locked position.

On June 24, 1st Lt. Courtland White, assigned to Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, will take over the Air Education and Training Command’s Instagram page — follow along at @aetc_firstcommand.

Throughout the day, viewers will sit in on pre-flight briefs, fly a sortie, learn about piloting a plane and get an up-close-and-personal look at what it’s like to serve as one of AETC’s instructor pilots.

“There’s nothing like it,” White said. “Instructing is about more than just being a pilot. We shape every student’s view on pilot culture, and we encourage everyone to bring what they have to the table. We’re responsible for developing Airmen and championing diversity of thought.”

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John A. Crawford


Unlike most students, White was nominated by his instructors to teach right after he finished his own training.

“It’s really an honor because only the top half of students even qualify, and it’s more than just being a good student,” White said. “If you’re nominated, it’s because your mentors like how you interact with others and want to bring you onto their team and work alongside you.”

Because FAIPs come right out of training, they, according to White, “are the backbone of training culture.” Having just experienced the education material and methods themselves, FAIPs have a unique perspective and can offer insights and suggestions to continuously improve the program and accelerate change.

Not only are FAIPs crucial to the mission, but they also receive leadership opportunities that many peers won’t see until later in their careers. White and his fellow instructor pilots manage interpersonal relationships, give life-saving lessons and think on their feet, constantly sharpening their problem-solving skills.

instructor pilot instagram
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)


“You learn how to ask good questions, what questions to ask and how to carry yourself,” White said. “All of the skills I’m gaining now will make me more competitive in the future.”

All of the women and men in instructor-pilot assignments have access to competitive career-broadening experiences to help them mature and grow as leaders, people and professionals. For example, by conversing with peer mentors, White gets to really dive into the nuances of different aircraft before selecting which airframe he wants to pilot for the rest of his career. Some of these mentors are other current instructor pilots, but, as a FAIP, White also has an automatic connection to every other Airman who has served as a FAIP. “Because our community is spread across every airframe in the Air Force, we are bound to find somebody who can help us navigate whatever new environment we find ourselves in,” White said.

Follow along during White’s Instagram takeover to learn why these positions represent some of the most important and impactful assignments an Airman can receive.

Article by Miriam A. Thurber, Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Feature image: USAF photo

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