Getting Personal: Visiting officer still gets time in the air, evaluating pilots, crew of the 48th Fighter Wing
May 28, 2008
When pilots move up in the ranks, flying usually becomes less frequent as command duties mount. But Maj. Chad Robbins is one of a lucky few who gets the best of both worlds.
Robbins, 35, is the chief F-15E standardization and evaluation pilot for U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Robbins comes to RAF Lakenheath for one week every month to fly and assess other F-15E pilots and flight crew members with the 48th Fighter Wing. He also helps shape USAFE flying policies and procedures.
How did you get this job?
The normal career flow [for pilots] is you’re a young wingman for one, maybe two, assignments and then you flow around to potentially working with the Army for a couple years as a nonflying liaison officer. … After that, you’re usually in the squadron again for one or maybe two assignments as a senior captain and then you get to where I am now, which is you pin on major. … After this, I start looking at those positions that will eventually lead to command.
You were a full-time pilot with the 48th at Lakenheath before you left in November to take your current position. That experience must really help on the job, no?
That was one of the biggest draws to get this particular job, because they wouldn’t have to spin someone else up into all the rules and regulations that USAFE has..
Do you miss being a full-time pilot?
Of course. You probably won’t find an air crew [member] that’ll say no to that. ... I’m definitely not as proficient even in the past three or four months of not full-time flying. ... Yet I still maintain the currencies and qualification to adequately evaluate people. ... Fortunately, I have a staff job that allows me to keep flying periodically. And, believe it or not, those are few and far between. So I was very fortunate to get this.
What’s the toughest part about getting back in the air after three weeks behind a desk?
Spinning back up as quickly as possible so that if my first flight coming back over here is, say, with a brand-new guy … that I’m actually teaching him the right thing. It’s a matter of ... immediately getting into the books and refreshing my memory on an academic sense. It comes back very fast by virtue of experience but it can be uncomfortable because there are a lot of things that don’t come naturally right away.
Have you always flown the F-15?
I’m a Strike Eagle baby. That’s what we call it. I’ve been in it since the very beginning. … I’ve been flying the Strike Eagle for about seven years now. There was about a three-year period there when I was an instructor in the T-38. … It’s becoming a lot more rare to see guys that have experience in multiple aircraft.
If you could fly any other airplane, what would it be?
Believe it or not, the Strike Eagle was the one I’ve always wanted to fly. Just to fly, just for fun? I’d love to fly a P-51, P-47, P-38 and the Spitfire. Those are all World War II aircraft. All four of those aircraft flew out of East Anglia.