First Air Guard F-35 Pilots Prepare to Fly

Lt. Col. Randal Efferson and Maj. Jay Spohn, two Florida Air National Guardsmen, are the first two Air Guard pilots assigned to the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin AFB, Fla., who will fly the F-35 strike fighter, according to base officials. They are training to be F-35 instructor pilots, states a May 23 base release. “We’ve been working for the past two years to get to this point,” said Efferson. Spohn will be the fifth member of the group to fly the F-35 and the second to train at Eglin, according to the release. Some three months later, Efferson will become the 10th military cadre pilot to fly, it states. Before becoming fully qualified as instructor pilots, Spohn and Efferson will each have to complete five instructional sorties and one evaluation flight, states the release. The 33rd OG began flying Air Force F-35As from Eglin, home of the initial joint F-35 schoolhouse, in March.