Hermitage Springs alum becomes Air Force combat pilot

EARNING HIS WINGS-Hermitage Springs native Timothy McLerran recently completed his training to become an Air Force combat pilot. (photo submitted)

EARNING HIS WINGS-Hermitage Springs native Timothy McLerran recently completed his training to become an Air Force combat pilot. (photo submitted)

COLUMBUS (MS)-Second Lieutenant Timothy McLerran recently completed the Air Force’s Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) program here at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi preparing the Hermitage Springs native to become a combat aviator.

The young pilot is the son of Laura and Tim McLerran, a 2006 graduate of Hermitage Springs High School, and a 2011 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

During his time completing the rigorous 13-month SUPT course, McLerran accumulated almost 240 flying hours in the T-6 Texan II and the T-1 Jayhawk.

With that under his belt, he will now be moving on to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas to fly the C-130J Super Hercules, otherwise known as the “Herk.”  The plane is a tactical transport aircraft designed to provide airlift and airdrop of cargo and personnel from short, unimproved runways.

The C-130 design has been in the Air Force inventory since the mid -50s, but the design has been upgraded over the years. The J model is the newest and most advanced variant and entered service in the late 1990s.

About SUPT
SUPT is a rigorous thirteen month course that teaches young Air Force officers how to be combat aviators.

The program is broken into three phases.

Phase One consists of six weeks of academic instruction and teaches students such subjects as aerodynamics and basic weather theory as well as the mechanical workings of their primary training aircraft, the T-6 Texan II.

After Phase One, the students head to the flight line to begin Phase 2 and actually get to fly the 1100 hp Texan. This phase lasts approximately six months and teaches the students how to perform basic flight maneuvers, aerobatics, instrument approaches, and fly formation.

Following Phase 2, the students are divided into “tracks” for Phase 3. This six month phase gives students exposure to faster, more high-performance aircraft as well as gives them more freedom to make their own decisions in the air with less input from the instructors.

The type of aircraft a student flies during this phase depends on what track they choose. The track for airlift/mobility aircraft puts the student in the T-1 Jayhawk while the fighter/bomber track students fly the T-38 Talon. Students going on the helicopter track will move to Ft Rucker Alabama to train on the UH-1 Iriquois. Following the completion of this phase, the students are awarded their wings and officially earn the title of U.S. Air Force pilot.