Face of Defense: Female Osprey Pilot Completes Training

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — After near­ly three years of flight train­ing, an Air Force offi­cer has become the first qual­i­fied female pilot of the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor air­craft.
“I had two major influ­ences for ini­tial­ly get­ting inter­est­ed in fly­ing,” 1st Lt. Can­dice Kil­lian said. “One was my grand­fa­ther. He flew civil­ian air­craft. I nev­er got to see them, because I was too young, but I saw pic­tures of them at his house and he would tell me sto­ries. The oth­er was a friend who flew. His father was in the Air Force. When my friend went to the Air Force Acad­e­my, he encour­aged me to learn to fly.”

CV-22 Osprey
Air Force 1st Lt. Can­dice Kil­lian is the first woman to qual­i­fy as a CV-22 Osprey pilot.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Ste­fan T. Bocchi­no
Click to enlarge

Kil­lian said she went to her local air­port to look into fly­ing lessons. With­in 18 months, she com­plet­ed her pri­vate pilot’s license and decid­ed she want­ed to join the Air Force to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence, serve her coun­try and ful­fill her desire to fly. She went to the Air Force Acad­e­my to start her training. 

“I found out that I was going to fly for the Air Force my senior year at the acad­e­my,” Kil­lian said. “The under­grad­u­ate pilot train­ing track is very broad at first, but you find out where you’re going at the acad­e­my at what we call ‘100 days.’ It’s a din­ner and a cel­e­bra­tion where they tell you where you’re going to go. It’s your senior year, and you final­ly know where you’re going.” 

From the acad­e­my, Kil­lian went to ini­tial pilot train­ing at Laugh­lin Air Force Base, Texas. The ini­tial train­ing, on the T‑6A Tex­an II train­ing air­craft, took about six months and includ­ed flight train­ing and aca­d­e­mics. After that, she went to Fort Ruck­er, Ala., to learn how to fly the UH‑1 Huey helicopter. 

“I knew I want­ed to fly heli­copters,” Kil­lian said. “I like the mis­sion role that heli­copters in the Air Force gen­er­al­ly fly, the broad spec­trum of things we can do. Upon com­ple­tion of the course at Fort Ruck­er, you can get CV-22s, UH-1s or HH-60 [Pave Hawks]. The mis­sion of the Osprey is very appealing.” 

After under­grad­u­ate pilot train­ing, Kil­lian was cho­sen to train as a pilot on the CV-22. The ini­tial train­ing took place in a joint pro­gram with the Marine Corps at Air Sta­tion New Riv­er, N.C. All Air Force CV-22 pilots com­plete the Marine course, where they are taught gen­er­al air­craft sys­tems and the basics about fly­ing a tilt-rotor aircraft. 

“Work­ing with the Marines was a lot of fun and real­ly ful­fill­ing,” she said. “To expe­ri­ence their cul­ture and how they train was awe­some. I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be instruct­ed by them and see the dif­fer­ent learn­ing styles they used.” 

After train­ing with the Marines, Kil­lian came here to com­plete her CV-22-unique mis­sion train­ing with the 58th Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Wing. 

“I did­n’t find out I was the first female pilot until they chose me,” she said. “I remem­ber being told, ‘You’re the first.’ It’s an hon­or that they would choose me. It’s nice to be a part of this elite organization.” 

Each pilot who grad­u­ates from CV-22 train­ing receives a coin from the com­man­der, with a num­ber sig­ni­fy­ing where they fall in the train­ing pipeline, said Air Force Lt. Col. Lar­ry Rid­dick, 71st Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Squadron com­man­der. Killian’s num­ber is 97. 

“She’s done very well in the course,” Rid­dick said. “It’s been fan­tas­tic hav­ing her here, and I look for­ward to hear­ing about her career.” 

From here, Kil­lian will move on to her next duty sta­tion at Hurl­burt Field, Fla. 

“I want to con­tin­ue to do well,” she said. “For all those who have influ­enced me along the way, I can’t thank them enough. With­out them, I prob­a­bly would not be here. I want to thank every­one for their pos­i­tive guidance.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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