By Markita Daniel, Corpus Christi Army Depot Public Affairs StaffDecember 12, 2017
Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas -- Six-year-old Chris Enman has had a connection to US Army helicopters since the day he was born: His father has been working on Corpus Christi Army Depot helicopters every day for the past ten years. The boy's connection to aircraft reached a new level when he became a Pilot for a Day on Nov. 15, 2017.
"Pilot for a Day" is an outreach program that provides critically and or chronically ill children with a day of memories in which they experience what it is like to be a military aviator at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
Chris spent the day meeting pilots from the many military branches operating at the base and learning about the aircraft they fly in this uniquely personal event for the entire family. He was in for a special treat when he found out that he would be the first honorary pilot to get a behind the scenes look of where his dad works, at CCAD.
His dad, Marcus Enman, a rotor blade mechanic, said his son has always been interested in helicopters. "I've never had an opportunity to bring him out to the depot to see what I do," he said. "This is great. We're just happy to be here."
While on the base, Chris became an honorary member of the VT-35 "Stingray" squadron, complete with his own squadron gear. He also learned about the survival tools used by military aviators, and got to rip the cord out of a parachute to watch the canopy stream out.
Outfitted in a specially-tailored flight suit emblazoned with a "Pilot for a Day" patch, Chris jumped with excitement as he approached the helicopter hangar at CCAD. "Do you have any machine guns?" he asked the entourage of Army test pilots welcoming him.
The pilots gave the Flour Bluff Elementary School kindergartner a lesson on Army helicopters before leading him up to a fully functioning UH-60 Black Hawk staged in the hangar.
Chris ran several laps around the aircraft to take it all in before sitting down in the cockpit with test pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tony Luke. A few switches and buttons later, the helicopter came to life. Chris' face lit as the cockpit's buttons glowed like a Christmas tree. The vibrations and loud hum of the helicopter's engine shook the oversized helmet Chris wore as he imagined himself in flight.
Before his visit was over, the CCAD pilots surprised Chris by showing him a different helicopter -- one loaded with a machine gun.
Chris may have been a pilot for a day, but he will likely be the most memorable one to the team at CCAD who gave him wings.
Since the program was founded in 2001, the VT-35 "Stingrays" (a joint advanced multi-engine training command flying the TC-12) has teamed with Driscoll Children's Hospital and the Children's Cancer Center of South Texas to welcome an honorary pilot to the naval base every month.