Requesting permission to land: fly-in invites civilian pilots to Shaw

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - -- More than 75 civilian aircraft touched down on the flightline here, on the morning of April 29.

It was the first General Aviation Fly In event held at Shaw since 1977.

“It’s an opportunity for civilian pilots to land on a U.S. military installation and get the opportunity to learn about how the 20th Fighter Wing and Shaw Air Force Base operate,” said Lt. Col. Joe Rodriguez, 495th Fighter Group commander, “and to have a cooperative relationship with the air traffic controllers who control the air space above Shaw and the Midlands of South Carolina.”

After a mass briefing from 20th Fighter Wing leaders, safety office and other agencies, the visiting pilots split into several groups and were taken around base for an up-close look at an F-16CM Fighting Falcon, a tour of Radar Approach Control, and the chance to try an F-16 simulator.

The visitors, however, weren’t the only ones benefiting from the experience; the event also provided a chance for Team Shaw to practice handling increased aircraft traffic for the rapidly approaching Shaw Air Expo and open house, “Thunder Over the Midlands” on May 21-22.

Visitors ranged from civilian to retiree, veteran, or those who came from military families. One such visitor was Ira Coward, whose father, William Coward, was a pilot who trained at Shaw Field in 1942 on the BT-13 Valiant.

As soon as he heard about the fly-in event at Shaw, Ira said, he had to bring the Piper J-3 Cub that he and his father bought together in 1970, along with the log book his father kept during his flying years.

William would later go on to fly P-40s, but was shot down over Anzio, Italy, during his 79th combat mission in January 1944.

Many stories such as Ira’s were shared over the course of the day as visitors reminisced with service members and one another.

As the event drew to a close and the planes lined up again on the taxiway and prepared for takeoff, those that organized and led the feat were finally able to relax and reflect on a job well done.

“It wasn’t just one person that was running this event, it was a team effort,” said Rodriguez. “It was Team Shaw coming together to make this happen.”

Team Shaw and the 20th FW look forward to hosting more events like this, in the spirit of building friendships and sharing knowledge within the aviation community.