Mississippi resident 403rd Wing Pilot for a Day

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

One local Mississippi resident received a holiday treat a little early this year.

The 403rd Wing commissioned 14-year-old Charles “Payton” Burge, of Carriere, Mississippi, as an honorary Air Force Reserve second lieutenant today as part of their Pilot for a Day program.

“The Gulf Coast is very supportive of the Air Force Reserve and Keesler Air Force Base, and the Pilot for a Day program is a great way for us to not only give back but to also thank the community for everything they do for us,” said 403rd Wing Commander Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh. “So, it’s important that we do events such as this.”

The purpose of the program is to reach out to the community by providing activities to children who live with a chronic or life-threatening disease or illness. The wing collaborated with Make A Wish Mississippi who selects the children who will participate in the program.

The wing treated Burge, who suffers from a heart condition, and his parents Brynn and Brandon, to a schedule of events intended to brighten his day and holiday season starting with an honorary commissioning ceremony.

The Pilot for the Day received an aircrew flight suit and stood in front of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron where the 403rd Wing commander administered the honorary commissioning oath. After the ceremony, the honorary lieutenant and pilot then departed with the WC-130J Super Hercules aircrew, toured the aircraft and got a taxi ride down the runway.

Although he didn’t get to fly with the crew, Burge still described it as an amazing experience.

I’ve never flown in an airplane but that was still awesome,” said Burge.

Later in the day, Burge got the chance to experience what it was like to fly a C-130J, but in the training simulator on base. The day concluded with a tour of the base fire department and air traffic control tower.

The best part of the day for Burge’s father Brandon, was to see his son experience the program.

“We just loved watching him his enjoy his time here,” said Brandon. “We appreciate Make A Wish, the Hurricane Hunters and Keesler.”