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Return trip eventful for RFA grad, Navy flight instructor

Jack Elliott, Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 7/22/22

Maj. Scott Corbett, a former Rome resident, likes to return to the area to visit family and friends.

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Return trip eventful for RFA grad, Navy flight instructor


ROME — Maj. Scott Corbett, a former Rome resident, likes to return to the area to visit family and friends. Over the past week and half, Corbett made another return trip for a different reason — as an instructor for the Navy pilots of Training Air Wing One.

The pilots began training on Monday, July 11, and stayed through Thursday, July 21.

Training Air Wing One consists of two squadrons: the “Eagles” of Training Squadron 7 and the “Tigers” of Training Squadron 9. The squadrons are based in Meridian, Miss., and train Student Naval Aviators from the Navy and Marine Corps to be ready for service.

As a part of their year-long flight school, members of the Air-Wing travel all over the nation for various types of trainings, said Corbett, who said the Griffiss International Airport seemed like a perfect fit for a new syllabus which was added to the flight school.

“It is a convenient place to fly. There are less thunderstorms than where the unit is based in Mississippi,” he said.

In Rome, the pilots practiced close air support, which is the action of dropping bombs in spots near friendly forces. The unit practiced this by dropping fake bombs on a ground target, according to the instructor.

“Every jet has 8 false bombs which are attached with an add-on deck,” said Corbett. “They take a flight to Fort Drum, which only takes about five minutes to reach, and drop their bombs there. The average flight lasts an hour and ten minutes.”

Corbett, now a member of the Marine Corps Reserves, works as an instructor about 4 or 5 days a month and says he jumped on the opportunity when he saw an opportunity to work in Rome.

“It’s a great place to train, and I hope we can make this an annual event,” he said.

The pilots fly T-45 Goshawk planes in order to learn fundamental tactics. The planes are training jets that are not used in combat by the U.S. Corbett said that this plane is the third platform that the pilots fly.

“First, they must complete 20 hours in the small Cessna-172, then 75 to 100 hours in the T-6 turboprop, and then they complete flight school in the T-45,” he said. “After flight school most pilots move on to tactical jets like Harrier, Hornets, and Super Hornets and others will move on to electronics aircraft such as the E-2 or cargo aircraft like the C-2.”

A majority of the pilots are members of the Navy, but there are some Marines as well. Corbett explained how the two groups will likely pursue different paths after flight school.

“The Marines and Navy fly slightly different platforms. The Navy flies mostly newer Super Hornets, while the marines fly older Hornets and Harriers,” he stated. “The marines operate a majority helicopter fleet. Almost every pilot in the Navy is put on an aircraft carrier, whereas Marine aviation is mostly ground based.”

Corbett also explained that the pilots have an average age of about 25, as they have to have completed a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into the flight school. The pilots of Air Wing One also have to achieve a certain grade baseline to be accepted, said the instructor. After all, such of the work they do involves planning for the flights.

“Most of the time is spent briefing the guys about tactics,” said Major Corbett. “They usually take 2 flights a day, but they have hours of briefing to do before and after.”

The instructor reflected on when he went through flight school as a young Marine.

“What I miss the most about being a full-time Marine pilot is the sense of comradery that comes when you are flying with and working with guys with a similar background and age group as you,” he said.

Corbett was a graduate from the 2005 class at Rome Free Academy, and from here he moved on to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated from there in 2009 and pursued his career in the Marine Corps.

In the Marines, he decided that he wanted to be an aviator. He said he was inspired to pursue a career as a pilot from his father.

“Growing up, we lived all over the place. My dad was stationed in various places as a pilot in Air Force. It was a big reason I did what I did,” he said.

Corbett finished flight school in summer of 2012 and was soon after deployed as a pilot of the F/A-18 Hornet.

The Hornet “is a multi-role fighter with air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities,” according to Corbett. “It covers a broad spectrum of uses. It can do any type of bombing or engage in aerial dogfights.”

He served his first deployment in the Middle East in 2014. This was a part of Operation Inherent Resolve, in which the U.S. attempted to combat ISIS in the region. He said he spent time in Bahrain, Djibouti, and Jordan during the deployment. Corbett said a highlight of the deployment was when he got to see the Dead Sea while in Jordan.

The second deployment that Corbett served was a non-combat assignment in the Pacific in 2016. While on this deployment, he visited Japan and Korea. Corbett said this assignment was more fun than the one in the Middle East, as there was much more to do.

Corbett’s “call sign” is Silent Bob. Usually, the special aviator nicknames are something based on something embarrassing that the pilots have done in their careers, but he said that his story is not that interesting.

“I’ll keep it classified and off the record, but I assure you it is not an exciting story like some others have.”

After his deployments, Corbett decided to become a member of the Marine Corps Reserves as a T-45 instructor. He also got a job that he still holds as a commercial pilot for United Airlines.

“Becoming a commercial pilot is a very popular option for military pilots after their service,” he said.

The transition from flying fighter jets to 737’s was very easy said Corbett.

“You need to have 1500 hours, which I had from the Marines,” he said. “Then, to fly a plane such as the 737, you only need a 4-week course on the simulator and a few flights with flight instructor. My first ever flight as pilot of a 737, I had a plane full of passengers.”

Though he likes his new career, the pilot said he still misses his days as a Marine pilot.

“Being a military aviator is a lot of fun. No where else can you fly the types of aircrafts in the types of way that they do,” he remembered.

Corbett now lives in Virginia with his wife and kids, and he said that he tries to come up to Rome often to visit his family.


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