KINGSVILLE, Texas -- A central Kentucky native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.
Lt. j.g. Thomas Dunlap, a 2008 Madison Central graduate, is a student pilot with the "Redhawks" of Training Squadron (VT) 21, based in Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas. The squadron flies T-45C Goshawk aircraft.
A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning the procedures and skills needed to fly naval aircraft both effectively and efficiently for the fleet.
"Eveyday is a new challenge that requires my best," Dunlap said. "There is nothing more satisfying than working hard in pursuing your dream and seeing it all come together. Also, there is nothing more thrilling than flying within feet of another aircraft piloted by your best friend."
The T-45C Goshawk is a tandem-seat, jet trainer aircraft powered by a twin-spool non-afterburn turbofan engine with 5,527 pounds of thrust and airspeed of 645 mph.
VT-21's primary mission is to train future naval aviators to fly as well as instill leadership and officer values, Navy officials explained. Students must complete many phases of flight training in order to graduate, including aviation pre-flight indoctrination, primary flight training, and advanced flight training. After successfully completing the rigorous program, naval aviators earn their coveted "Wings of Gold."
After graduation, pilots continue their training to learn how to fly a specific aircraft, such as the Navy's F/A-18 Hornet fighter attack jet aircraft or the F-35 Lightning joint strike fighter jet. They are later assigned to a ship or land-based squadron.