A Day in the Life of a C-12 Pilot
One of the coolest jobs in the Air Force exists at Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, Japan. On the western edge of the biggest city in the world lies a base with a small unit of Air Force personnel that fly the C-12J. The C-12J is the military version of the Beechcraft 1900C, which can seat up to 19 passengers. Our primary mission is to transport distinguished visitors (DV) which can be military members above the rank of Lt Col, or US/foreign civilian leaders. We also have a deployed mission transporting troops between their forward-operating-base and bigger cities where bilateral meetings and events take place. On a daily basis we fly into airfields all over Japan, Korea, the Micronesian Islands and the Philippines.
A typical week for a C-12 pilot may involve flying a mission (transporting a DV to a bilateral function) and flying a training sortie. Our training sorties are meant to maintain our proficiency in the aircraft, especially in responding to emergency situations. On a typical training sortie we may fly Visual Flight Rules (VFR) over Tokyo, practice short field operations (landing at a field that is significantly shorter than an average runway, which requires a precise touchdown in the first 500 feet and stopping within the remaining runway, often 1,500 feet or less), practice instrument flying (referencing only aircraft instruments to maneuver the aircraft without looking outside), and practicing emergency situations (losing an engine just after takeoff, conducting a single-engine landing and conducting a single-engine go-around). Aside from flying, every person has an office job which helps sustain the operations of the squadron, group or wing that they are assigned to. Typical jobs in the squadron are: Training, Safety, Scheduling, Standardization and Evaluation, Assistant Director of Operations, and Executive Officer to the Commander.
Currently, I am the Chief C-12J Evaluator Pilot and work in Standardization and Evaluation, assigned to the Operations Group. My primary responsibility is to ensure that our C-12 pilots and C-12 procedures meet standards. I evaluate pilots by giving them a checkride. These checkrides consist of a Ground Evaluation, Flight Evaluation, and Emergency Procedure Evaluation. By testing a pilot’s knowledge of the airplane, their performance in the airplane, and their response to a simulated emergency, I evaluate their overall proficiency level and assign an appropriate grade (Q1 – pass, Q2 –pass, but needed additional training, and Q3 – not qualified). Looking at the “bigger picture,” my goal is to ensure the squadron’s training is sufficient and that the C-12 community is adhering to standards that are required by FAA, ICAO and military rules.
As I reach the tail end of my tour here in Japan, I reflect on why the C-12 has been such a rewarding experience. Japan is rich with culture, and I have appreciated being able to experience their traditions and favorite past-times. Being submersed in a completely different language and way of life also brings you closer to your fellow Airman. Our small squadron is much more like a family than other unit I’ve seen. The flying has been incredible, and the opportunity to “pick the brains” of our passengers on the most important national issues, whether they be Congressman or top military leaders, has been a rewarding and humbling experience.
Capt Christina Lee, 374 Operations Group Standardization and
Evaluation, C-12 Evaluator Pilot