To go through the Air Force’s Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, you have to be one of the best pilots in the entire branch, which makes you one of the best pilots in the world.
The school is a graduate-level course on tactical fighting taught to instructors, with the intent they will go back to their home units and better the group’s proficiency. As commandant, Col. Adrian Spain is in charge of ensuring those 250 or so pilots a year are not only the best at flying, but also the best at teaching. With experience as a former commander of a fighter wing, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in both the F-15 and F-22, Spain is well suited to lead this critical mission.
Name: Col. Adrian Spain
Occupation: Commandant, Air Force Weapons School
Extra: Spain led his squadron into Iraq on the first night of
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Started in aviation… I got interested in the military as a way to pay for college. I thought I would go in, be an engineer, and then get a real job. This was during Desert Storm and a couple of guys came back and were passing photos of their B-52 crew. I noticed there were no black pilots. I thought I have a shot at this and I have the opportunity to be the guy on that picture that some kid sees and thinks 'I can do that too.'
Love of flight… Once I got over the initial steps, it really became this thing that clicked with me. The joy of being up there and executing, and having it be an extension of yourself. When you’re in control. When you have the aircraft and you are making it do what you want it to do. There’s this bonding that occurs that you can never get out of your system.
A good instructor… We inspire instructors to reach their potential. We say they have to be humble, approachable, credible. Being humble and approachable means they can reach the broadest audience possible.
Favorite airplane… That’s an impossible question. I’ve always been partial to the F-15C. Always a special place in my heart. I love the F–22 though. It’s amazing how capable it is and how much it allows the pilot to focus on other important things.
Advice for students… You have to be a sponge. You have to be willing to learn anything you can from anyone who knows more than you. Number two for me is to chair fly. In pilot training I would spend the entire sortie on the ground beforehand on every single step. That’s when it started to click.