Generations of aviation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rebeckah Medeiros
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Family has an immense impact on children as they grow up. They can shape a person and influence them to go down a certain path in adulthood; this was the case for one Flying Tiger.

Maj. Will Piepenbring, 23rd Fighter Group assistant director of operations, comes from multiple generations of service members who led him to aviation. He brought his love of aviation and influence from his grandfather to a living history event in Douglas. His grandfather was enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a commissioned World War II veteran, inspiring Will to be who he is today.

“I’d definitely say that my granddad had an influence in my decision to go into aviation,” he recalled of his grandpa. “He would always get me Air Force magazines or fighter jet magazines when I was a little boy and go through them with me. He took me to my first air show at Charleston Air Force Base. He was someone I could look up to.”

Piepenbring, a A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot with approximately 1,900 hours, continues to look up to his grandfather every day, even after his passing six years ago. He has a framed photo above his desk in the 23rd FG with his grandfather’s service photo, pilot training certificate and a page from his grandfather’s flight log book.

Piepenbring's aunt Marty, is considered the family historian, gifted Will with Army memorabilia years ago, from retired 2nd Lt. Richard Piepenbing’s time in service, leading him to do some research of his own. After finding his grandfather’s flight log book, he visited Douglas, Georgia, WWII Flight Training Museum.  The former 63rd Flight Training Detachment at the Douglas Army Airfield, is where his grandfather served as a PT-17 Stearman pilot. 

Will who has served the majority of his nearly 12 years of service at Moody, frequently visits the WWII museum where his grandfather served with the 63rd FTD as a pilot at then Douglas Army Airfield in 1944. 

“It is still very cool to walk the grounds where my grandfather first learned how to fly,” Piepenbring said. “Not only that, but being at Moody and flying in the same air space that he first learned how to fly (the PT-17 Stearman) it’s extremely surreal. I almost feel like he is flying with me every day. I feel so lucky to be stationed so close to Douglas.”

Piepenbring said he plans to continue flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II Warthog as long as he can. Once he retires, he plans to move near his family and enjoy living life.

“I love being down here in the south and close to family and obviously flying in granddad’s airspace,” he said.