At Both Ends of the Boom

F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Chris Spinelli recently qualified as a KC-135 tanker pilot to better oversee his flight test squadron’s operations at Edwards AFB, Calif., announced base officials. Dual qualifying in a fighter and a tanker is considered a rare occurrence, according to Edwards’ Feb. 12 release. “As commander of the 445th Flight Test Squadron, I have four aircraft under my purview,” but “I had never flown a heavy aircraft before,” explained Spinelli. With experience at both ends of the boom, “I now have greater oversight ability for the tanker mission,” he added. Before Spinelli, the 445th FTS had only three tanker pilots for upcoming F-35-tanker compatibility trials, according to the release. In addition to overseeing tanker tests, Spinelli is working to fly the KC-135 without instructor oversight to be able to augment the squadron’s tanker pilot cadre, states the release. He graduated an abbreviated senior officer’s course, qualifying on the Stratotanker at Altus AFB, Okla., in January. (Edwards report by Jet Fabara)