Commander treated to incentive ride

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
July 7, 2011 is a date Col. Anthony Cotton will not soon forget.

After a few years of talk about getting Wing One's commander on an incentive flight at the MANG, the event finally took place last Thursday.

"I am looking forward to it," Cotton said while preparing for his flight. "Hoops [Col. Pete Hronek, 120th Fighter Wing commander] and I have been talking about doing this for this for awhile. I'm excited we finally get to do it and I'm not going to turn down a ride in an F-15."

Before Thursday's flight, Hronek said he'd been at Malmstrom before and taken tours so he wanted to return the favor to Cotton.

"I'll let him touch the controls of the F-15 and even fly it a bit from the controls in the back seat if he wants," Colonel Hronek said. "I don't think he'll let me touch a missile launch key, but that's OK with me."

After gearing up in his G-suit and parachute harness, Cotton met up with his host and the two commanders headed across the flightline to board their aircraft.

Cotton was the first to climb on board and was carefully strapped in by one of the operations team members. Ascending the stairs behind him, Hronek leaned in and shook Cotton's hand before climbing into the cockpit and taking the controls.

As the F-15 taxied out of the hangar, the two commanders acknowledged the crowd and proceeded down the runway to get into position to take off.

A few minutes later, a roaring jet came zooming by and was very quickly airborne, thus beginning Cotton's one-plus hour journey of a lifetime.

With intentions of putting his friend "through the ropes," Colonel Hronek said before take off, "If he signals he is OK, I will push the plane a little harder."

That he did as Wing One's commander confessed after the flight that the duo had hit 7G's while they were flying.

"It was extremely hot up there but absolutely incredible," Cotton said. "If the air conditioning was a little better, I'd have stayed up there for hours! It was great to see the sights of northcentral Montana going 500 miles per hour."