Vance hosts historical pilot duo

  • Published
  • By Frank McIntyre
  • Public Affairs
Vance Air Force Base is helping write a page in Italy's aviation history as it plays host to two of the first female pilots in the Italian Air Force.
2nd Lts. Donatella Caforio and Ida Casetti currently are assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron, training on the T-37 as members of Class 06-07.
"The training is very demanding and challenging," Lieutenant Casetti said. "It was especially tough in the beginning, getting used to the English language, but our classmates have been very helpful in getting us acclimated."
Challenges are nothing new for the two student aviators. They were in the first class to admit female students to the Italian Air Force Academy in Naples, Italy. Fifteen women were among the 80 students starting classes in 2000. Although the class size is much smaller than the U.S. Air Force Academy, competition for the few yearly slots is equally as tough. More than 13,000 prospects applied for the class starting in 2000, for a selection rate just barely above one-half percent.
"They have more than met the challenges presented to them by the Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training curriculum," said Capt. Dave Tifford, 33rd FTS "R" flight commander. "They perform very well, especially considering the language barrier. Their overall general knowledge is above the student average and they fly well."
Getting accustomed to the language is just one of the disadvantages to training in a foreign land. Both students also admit to being a little homesick and missing their friends and family.
That's where technology helps.
"The Internet is great for us," Lieutenant Caforio said. "Not only do we have e-mail for corresponding with family and friends, we can also download Italian publications and listen to Italian music, that helps keep us close to our homeland."
Once they complete phase two training with the T-37s, Lieutenants Caforio and Casetti will move on to phase three training with the T-38s. Following graduation from Vance in April 2006, the first of Italy's Air Force female pilots will return to the academy for final aircraft assignment.
Students select their desired career path upon entering the Italian academy and those selecting flying study an appropriate curriculum.
Nine of the first 16 females to graduate from the Italian Air Force Academy are scheduled for pilot training. One is currently at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and 2nd Lt. Laura Letter joined her classmates at Vance Thursday as a member of Class 06-12, giving Team Vance responsibility for training one-third of this historic group of Italian aviators.