LEMOORE — A Lemoore native who earned his wings earlier this summer will be teaching others how to fly.
Donald King graduated from undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma in June. Two weeks before graduation, the program participates in a “drop night”, where pilots find out which aircraft they are assigned to - usually a decision that they will stick with for the rest of their career, King said.
King received a special assignment: to become a T-6 Texan instructor pilot for the next three years.
“To become an instructor pilot is more of an honor than anything,” King said. “The pilots (from training) come together to choose a person from the class for the job and I am honored to be selected. The crazy thing is that I’m going to have the responsibility of an aircraft commander in about four months and other people’s lives will depend on me.”
King is currently settling into his instructor pilot training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Air Force Base and will complete the program in November.
Linda Moua, King’s partner, said that becoming a pilot was King’s dream since they first met.
“It was the night before my brother’s wedding when I met Donald,” Moua said. “The line that he hit me with when we first met was: ‘I’m going to be a pilot.’”
Moua will be in Oklahoma attending law school when King starts his instructor position. The two want to move to a Florida or New Mexico base afterwards, she said.
King hopes to eventually fly a CV-22 Osprey after his position as an instructor pilot ends, he said. The aircraft's mission is to conduct long-range infiltration and resupply missions for special operations forces, according to the U.S. Air Force.
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King’s interest in the military started with his father, Kraig King, who was in the Navy at Lemoore Naval Air Station for more than 20 years. King joined the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps during his time at Lemoore High School.
“I was a punk guy, with long hair and everything; I had to cut it off for NJROTC,” King said. “I didn't care for it too much but then I got really involved with the program and then my interest built from there.”
King was appointed cadet commanding officer of the NJROTC program during his senior year.
After graduation, King attended West Hills College Lemoore and received an associate degree in physics. He then transferred to California State University, Fresno and earned a business management degree.
King entered undergraduate pilot training in February 2018, where he learned to fly a plane for the first time.
“We would usually fly (locally) about once a day,” King said. “But once you do a cross country flight, you get to experience talking to controllers, cruising at 25,000 feet and it’s a lot of fun.”
King first flew a T-6 Texan during his undergraduate pilot training. Now, he is relearning how to fly the aircraft and is looking forward to becoming a pilot, he said.
“My (training) instructors will start pretending to be a student and making mistakes,” King said. “As an instructor pilot, I will have to catch those mistakes. I’ll be with people who have never flown before and will need to teach them how to learn to fly.”