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First female CV-22 pilot completes training

1st Lt. Candice Killian prepares to fly a CV-22 Osprey. Lieutenant Killian is the first qualified female CV-22 pilot.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Stefan Bocchino)

1st Lt. Candice Killian prepares to fly a CV-22 Osprey. Lieutenant Killian is the first qualified female CV-22 pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Stefan Bocchino)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- After nearly three years of flight training with the Air Force, she recently became the first qualified female pilot of the CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

It started with pictures of aircraft in her grandfather's home. Then it was on to starting lessons to earn her private pilot's license as a high school senior. It kept up through her Air Force training. First Lt. Candice Killian, a 58th Training Squadron student, has always wanted to fly.

"I had two major influences for initially getting interested in flying," Lieutenant 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."

Lieutenant Killian said she went to her local airport to look into flying lessons. Within 18 months, she completed her private pilot's license.

Lieutenant Killian said she wanted to join the Air Force to make a positive difference and to serve her country. It also fulfilled 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," Lieutenant 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, Lieutenant 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," Lieutenant 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, Lieutenant Killian was chosen to train as a pilot on the CV-22. The initial training took place with the Marine Corps at Air Station New River, N.C. As a joint program, all Air Force CV-22 pilots complete the Marine course, where they are taught general aircraft systems and the basics about flying a tiltrotor aircraft.

"Working with the Marines was a lot of fun and really fulfilling," Lieutenant Killian 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, she came to Kirtland Air Force Base 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," Lieutenant Killian 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 Lt. Col. Larry Riddick, the 71st Special Operations Squadron commander. Lieutenant Killian is number 97.

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

From here, Lieutenant Killian will be transferring to her next duty station at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

"I want to continue to do well," Lieutenant Killian 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."

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