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Newest 'Raptor pilot' sets record at young age

Maj. John Teichert, 411th Flight Test Squadron assistant operations officer, lifts Reilly Koyl, age 5, into an F-16 as part of the Pilot for a Day program. (Photo by Mark McCoy)

Maj. John Teichert, 411th Flight Test Squadron assistant operations officer, lifts Reilly Koyl, age 5, into an F-16 as part of the Pilot for a Day program. (Photo by Mark McCoy)

Reilly Koyl dons his fireman suit as Edwards' firefighters give him a helping hand. Reilly was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 years old and just finished three years of chemotherapy. (Photo by Mark McCoy)

Reilly Koyl dons his fireman suit as Edwards' firefighters give him a helping hand. Reilly was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 years old and just finished three years of chemotherapy. (Photo by Mark McCoy)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Edwards and the 411th Flight Test Squadron welcomed its "newest pilot" and his family to Edwards on Tuesday.

Reilly Koyl, also known as "Raptor 00," may need a set of telephone books on the seat of the F-22A Raptor to see over the canopy rail, but that did not deter the intrepid aviator from getting into his new "office."

At five years of age, Reilly, who is participating in the Pilot for a Day program, set a record by being the youngest person to sit in the U. S. Air Force's newest fighter and to "fly" the F-22A Raptor simulator, said Maj. John Teichert, 411th Flight Test Squadron assistant operations officer and organizer for the Edwards Pilot for a Day program.

"Pilot for a Day is a program currently in use at a couple of bases across the country in which children with life-threatening illnesses are given a chance to experience life as a pilot for a day," Major Teichert said.

Reilly was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2 and just finished up three years of chemotherapy, said Reilly's mother, Mary Koyl.

Major Teichert escorted the family -- Reilly, his parents, and his younger brother, Carter -- on their base tour, which started at the 445th Flight Test Squadron. Reilly was "issued" his flight suit, patches, and his official call sign "Raptor 00." From there, Reilly went to the support flightline where he had a chance to sit in and take pictures in an F-16B Fighting Falcon, which had his name on a special plaque. During lunch at Club Muroc's Pancho Barnes Pub, Reilly challenged Major Teichert to "Crud;" a game played on a pool table that is popular with aircrews.

After lunch the group proceeded to the main base fire station where Reilly donned firefighting gear. Afterwards the 'pilot' for a day and his family were then taken on a ride in a fire truck and were allowed to shoot the water gun.

"I think it's great he's able to come out and take a look," said Edwards Station Chief Jeff Hall. "I was just coming in, and I heard him on the radio. We've got ourselves a new firefighter."

From there the group went to the Air Traffic Control tower where Reilly had a chance to listen to the air traffic controllers talk to aircrews flying in the traffic pattern. After a presentation by the tower team, it was off to the end of the runway to watch planes perform landings and touch-and-go procedures.

The highlight of the day, Major Teichert said, was Reilly's visit to the 411th FLTS where he got to see and sit in the Raptor. Senior noncommissioned officers from the 412th Test Wing presented Reilly with two Raptor T-shirts, patches, and a special Raptor light before he headed off to Raptor life support to see what it was like to put on flight gear.

Reilly's father, Chris, was used as a stand-in to model the gear.

The last stop was at the F-22A flight simulator in the Integrated Facility for Avionics Systems Test. Reilly performed a take-off, a loop, some aileron rolls, and high-speed flight in the simulator before ending his first "mission."

"He's into flight simulations and can fly them too," Mr. Koyl said.

Reilly's "Pilot for a Day" experience was sponsored by the Illinois chapter of the Make A Wish Foundation.

"What we really want is for each child to experience the wish of their imagination which becomes life enriching as well," said Renee Davis, Make-A-Wish Foundation Illinois Chapter wish manager. "It's not just about the day or the week of the trip, but how it impacts the rest of their life and that of their family."

Reilly's mom agreed.

"Reilly really wants to be a pilot when he grows up, so this is really an exciting opportunity for him ... it's a big day here at Edwards so we're so excited," Mrs. Koyl said.

Reilly also got some good news about his health recently.

"We just got his last bone morrow and spinal tap results and they're normal," Mrs. Koyl said. "We're really excited, so this kind of marks the start to a normal life for him and for us."

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