Four Generations Of Air Force Pilots
by U.S. Air Force Airman Kailee Reynolds
For some pilots, the dream to fly begins
the moment they are born.
For 1st Lt. Chad Chapman 47th Student
Squadron T-38 Talon student pilot, it took a little longer for those
dreams to make an appearance.
"I'm the fourth generation of
pilots in my family, but I didn't always want to become a pilot,"
Chapman said. "Things aren't set in stone and a lot of people don't
know what they want to do with their lives, and that's okay. I'm
just glad I found what I love to do."
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Chad Chapman (left), 47th Student Squadron T-38 Talon student pilot, with his older brother, Capt. James Chapman
at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas on October 25, 2019. (Image
created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photo by U.S. Air
Force 1st Lt. Chad Chapman.)
Chapman discovered his passion in life when
he was enrolled in college, which inadvertently turned out to be the
rest of his family's life calling as well.
"It all started
with my great-grandpa," said Chapman. "His name was William 'Bill'
Chapman. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, flying P-36 Hawk
and Consolidated PT-3. He wanted to serve his country and he loved
to fly. Flying was new back then, so it was a high honor and a dream
for a lot of people."
family's love for flying seems to have passed on through the
Bill's son, Richard Chapman (Chad's
grandfather), flew Boeing 707's for Braniff International Airways, a
former commercial airline. His children, James (Chad's uncle), and
John Chapman (Chad's father) flew during their time in the Air
Force. James flew F-111s Aardvarks, and John flew F-15C Strike
Chad's father had 3 sons, Chase "Ship" Chapman, Tyler
"Twitch" Chapman and Chad Chapman, also joined the Air Force. Chase
flies F-15s, Tyler flies F-16s and Chad is now assigned to F-35s.
"We all enjoy flying so much," said Chapman. "In our eyes,
flying beats any other job. We've always been taught to aim high and
shoot for our dreams. I think my great-grandfather had that mindset
that kind of trickled down and instilled into all of us."
Although Chad is more than excited to join his "family of pilots,"
he took the road less traveled to get to his position today.
"My situation was a little special because my family always chose
flying, so I wanted to make sure that what I did was what I was
passionate about in life," said Chapman. "I studied computer science
in college and graduated with that, but it wasn't really my
Like the rest of his family, Chad took advantage of
the numerous benefits of the Reserve Officer's Training Corps (ROTC)
program during his time in college. One advantage the ROTC program
gave him was the opportunity to take an incentive flight. An
incentive flight is part of a program offered by the Air Force to
individuals who show exceptional performance in their duties. Chad
was able to fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, and it changed his view
on the rest of his life.
"It just turned my world upside
down," said Chapman. "I knew I had to fly and I wanted to be a part
of that heritage and legacy.
After college, Chad was
commissioned into the Air Force to pursue his newfound passion for
flying. He is currently stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas,
going through Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. He is
working hard to earn his wings and follow the footsteps of his
great-grandfather and the rest of his family.
"My family and
I have always been close, but having something that you all share
and are passionate about, it brings you a lot closer," said
Chapman."We all fly different aircraft, but we've all been through
stressful moments. We just remind each other that, 'yes, it might be
hard now, but it's so worth it in the end, if you just apply and
One of the things that Chad finds most
important about his unique position is how he can find
interchangeable support and wisdom from all directions in his life.
"I think that being a part of a family rooted deeply in the Air
Force is really special. We all know that the Air Force is like a
family away from family, but for me, it literally is my family.
Being a part of a legacy is also being a part of a close-knit
family, and I consider any pilot in my squadron to be a part of
mine. The Air Force is my family, and my family is the Air Force. I
think that a lot of people that join the Air Force find that to be
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