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Solo -- an important step along the path to pilot wings

Solo

2nd Lt. Corey Persons, a student pilot in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, walks to the T-6A Texan II training aircraft he will fly solo, July 15, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 is the initial pilot training aircraft used to teach student pilots basic flying skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

Solo

2nd Lt. Corey Persons, left, a student pilot assigned to Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, and Capt. Marcel Trott, a flight commander, inspect the T-6A Texan II logs, July 15, prior to Persons' solo flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. When a student pilot performs their first solo flight, they exchange name tags with their instructor so there is a pair of pilot wings onboard the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

Solo

2nd Lt. Corey Persons, a student pilot assigned to Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, inspects a T-6A Texan II before his solo flight July 15, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Traditionally, students exchange name tags with their instructor pilot so there is a set of pilot wings onboard the aircraft during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

Solo

Capt. Marcel Trott, a flight commander, salutes 2nd Lt. Corey Persons, a student pilot assigned to Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, before his solo flight in the T-6A Texan II, July 15, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

Solo

2nd Lt. Corey Persons, a student pilot at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, is thrown into the solo tank by fellow students, July 15, 2019. It is an Air Force tradition to be tossed into the tank after a student completes their first solo flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Cameron A. Schultz)

Solo

2nd Lt. Corey Persons, a student pilot assigned to Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, and his wife, Kelly, celebrate after he completed his first solo flight in the T-6A Texan II, July 15, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. When student pilots complete their first solo flight, they are thrown into a small pool called a solo tank in celebration of their accomplishment. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Taylor Crul)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The “solo” flight in a training aircraft is a significant step toward earning U.S. Air Force pilot wings.

At Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, 2nd Lt. Corey Persons, in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-09, took that step July 15.

He performed a walk-around of the T-6A Texan II and received a final briefing from the flight commander, Capt. Marcel Trott.

Then, just before Persons climbed into the cockpit, an important Air Force tradition was observed. The flight commander gave Persons his wings patch. That way, a set of pilot wings is onboard the aircraft during flight.

It is also a symbol of the trust an instructor has in the student’s ability to safely fly the aircraft alone.

During the solo flight, the instructor on the ground wears the student’s name-tag as a symbol of solidarity and pride in the student.

After his successful solo flight, Persons’ fellow student pilots tossed him into the solo-dunk-tank, another tradition along the path of fulfilling Team Vance’s mission to “Deliver pilots, develop innovative Airmen, deploy warriors and demonstrate our culture.”

Vance graduates more than 350 new pilots every year, totaling more than 34,000 since the base opened in 1941.