By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit, 189th Airlift Wing
LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Air Force Staff Sgt. Megan Corker is here training to be an Air Force flight engineer, which is an enlisted member of a flight crew who monitors and operates the complex systems in an aircraft.
To become a flight engineer, an airman must first have served in one of several maintenance career fields and be selected to participate in the program. The entire course is about 11 months long, with six of those months spent here for academic and flying training. From C-130H Hercules simulator training, to performing on the actual aircraft, Corker broadened her perception and knowledge of the flight engineer career field.
“As soon as she got here we realized she was an above-average student and we wanted to cut her training short,” said Air Force Master Sgt. David Roles, the lead flight engineer instructor with the Arkansas’ Air National Guard’s 154th Training Squadron. “She actually only had eight of each training event, which is not the norm. I’ve never seen anyone proficiency advance that much before. We had to check the regulations to make sure we could even do that.”
Support and encouragement is essential to the success of anyone who is ready to set goals and new milestones in their life. Corker attributes her drive to excellence to her father, who taught her to always give 110 percent in everything she does. She applies this outlook throughout her life as well as in her former career as a C-130 crew chief. While her father encouraged her throughout her life, her previous supervisor played a key role in her decision to pursue the goal of becoming a flight engineer.
“My supervisor from my old shop definitely instilled in me the work ethic that I have now,” Corker said. “I knew from the beginning that I always wanted to fly, and he cheered me on the whole way when I told him what I wanted to do. He was fully supportive of me.”
Corker said she always knew she wanted to be an aircrew member. She chose to begin her Air Force career as a maintainer in order to ensure she was familiar with all aspects of the aircraft, making her new career as a flight engineer possible. While she always carried the prospect of becoming aircrew, her path became clear during an exercise that allowed her to see firsthand what a flight engineer does.
“I’ve always had an interest in becoming aircrew. Watching everyone work made me realize that becoming a flight engineer was just what seemed right for me,” Corker said. “Being a prior maintainer definitely helped, but I didn’t see any reason not to give my all and maybe add a little extra effort in there. I’m excited to learn more and do more as a go forward and move on.”
During her training here, Corker learned the different responsibilities of her new career field. From training in the flight simulator to flying in the C-130H, the steps she took to complete her training were tedious and time-consuming, but she says it was worth the effort in the end. She credits her success at the school to not only her military background, but also to her instructors.
“Putting everything you’ve learned together and finally getting to fly, that’s that was my favorite part of this whole process,” Corker said. “It’s really cool how it all works when you finally get to do the job.”
It takes a dedicated person to become an instructor. Handing down knowledge from one flight engineer to another takes patience and perseverance on all levels. While it is sometimes a tedious and seemingly unrewarding task, instructors within the unit say that every step is worth the challenge. Roles said that watching a student finally grasp an idea they have been struggling to understand is one of the most rewarding parts of his job.
“I enjoy being able to teach brand-new individuals. Regardless of what stage in their career they are, they volunteered to become an enlisted flyer,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Terry, the 154th TRS assistant flight engineer superintendent. “Teaching them and sharing relevant experiences here and the things you’ve encountered as a flight engineer in an operational unit is very rewarding.”