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

U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen Jost, 20th Fighter Wing commander, gives a brief to visiting civilian pilots during a General Aviation Fly-In event at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The event was intended for civilian and military pilots, along with air traffic controllers, to learn from each other on subjects such as mid-air collision avoidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen Jost, 20th Fighter Wing commander, gives a brief to visiting civilian pilots during a General Aviation Fly-In event at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The event was intended for civilian and military pilots, along with air traffic controllers, to learn from each other on subjects such as mid-air collision avoidance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Kuhlmann speaks with a member of Team Shaw during a General Aviation Fly In event at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The event included the chance to fly an F-16CM Fighting Falcon simulator, a tour of Radar Approach Control, and an up-close look at an F-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Kuhlmann speaks with a member of Team Shaw during a General Aviation Fly In event at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The event included the chance to fly an F-16CM Fighting Falcon simulator, a tour of Radar Approach Control, and an up-close look at an F-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Aircraft line the runway at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The 20th Fighter Wing invited civilian pilots from all over the region to participate in a General Aviation Fly-In event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Aircraft line the runway at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The 20th Fighter Wing invited civilian pilots from all over the region to participate in a General Aviation Fly-In event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Visitors gather around an F-16CM Fighting Falcon as U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Feeman, 20th Operations Support Squadron wing weapons, describes its parts and function at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The static F-16 display was the last stop of the tour before the event came to a close. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

Visitors gather around an F-16CM Fighting Falcon as U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Feeman, 20th Operations Support Squadron wing weapons, describes its parts and function at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. The static F-16 display was the last stop of the tour before the event came to a close. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kris Padilla, 20th Fighter Wing chief of safety, and his son look at aircraft on the flight line at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. Seventy-nine civilian aircraft and more than 100 people participated in Shaw’s first General Aviation Fly-In since 1977. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kris Padilla, 20th Fighter Wing chief of safety, and his son look at aircraft on the flight line at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 29, 2016. Seventy-nine civilian aircraft and more than 100 people participated in Shaw’s first General Aviation Fly-In since 1977. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker)

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.