TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -On the edge of Tucson International, there's a high flying military unit you may not hear much about...
They are the F-16s of the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing. Their mission is F-16 pilot training for U-S pilots and pilots of friendly foreign air forces.
The F-16 can zoom up to twice the speed of sound. Pilots say it's a sweet ride.
Captain Rohan Naldrette-Jays says flying the F-16 fulfills a childhood dream.
"It's a super fun jet to fly, especially being a little aircraft with a lot of thrust behind it too. Being able to plug the throttle in and feel it kick you in the back as it shoots you down the runway too."
Earlier in his flying career, Captain Naldrette-Jays taught new pilots to fly in T-38s, a different sort of jet especially made for training. Now he's the student learning the F-16, a jet so lively and maneuverable he says you strap it on and wear it as much as sit in it.
Lieutenant Colonel Collin Coatney says his students are so sharp and conscientious, the first time they fly the F-16 without an instructor on board he urges them to ease off the business of flying and savor the joy.
“I just kind of take my airplane and I go away a little bit and I give them that perspective of, hey look around, I want you to just settle down. Look out your left, look out your right. You're soloing an F-16 fighter airplane for the first time in your life. Just enjoy that. Enjoy that moment."
Instructors at the 162nd help a lot of pilots enjoy that moment. They train about 10 percent of new F-16 pilots for the U-S each year and they've trained pilots for 28 friendly countries.