Interview & Photography: Nicholas Pascarella
editor's note: Continuing with our coverage of the the incredible service men and women of the A-10 Demonstration Team in our last interview, please enjoy this awesome interview highlighting the pilot of the A-10 Demo Team himself, Capt. Cody "ShIV" Wilton. Perhaps you've seen his performance at an airshow or seen photos and video of Capt. Wilton wringing out the jet over the field...here is your chance to hear from the man himself. Full Disc would once again like to thank ShIV and the rest of the team for their sacrifices and their time. -np
FDA: Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Background, hometown, years in the service, years flying the A-10, leisure activities, etc..open book!
Captain Cody “ShIV” Wilton: Born in Fort Worth TX, but my father was in the Navy so we lived mostly on the West Coast bouncing around between San Diego and Washington State. I joined the Air Force in 2001 and enlisted as an airborne Russian linguist. I worked as a linguist and then an interpreter for a little over 8 years before being accepted to officer training school for a pilot slot.
What aircraft did you learn to fly in?
I initially learned to fly in a Cessna 172 with a flying club out of Potomac Airfield in Maryland.
What formal flight schools have you attended?
My formal training started with IFS (initial flight screening) in a DA-20 out in Pueblo, CO. Following that it was the T-6 Texan II, then the T-38 for Undergraduate Pilot Training and the T-38 again for the IFF (introduction to fighter fundamentals) all at Columbus AFB in Mississippi.
How many hours do you have in the A-10?
I started flying the mighty Hawg in April of 2011 and have been fortunate to have been flying it continuously since then. I'm currently just shy of 1500 hours.
What was your first flight in the A-10 like? How did you feel?
The first time you fly the jet it is actually shocking how easy it is to fly. Obviously, it's pretty nerve wracking being solo, but it's a very forgiving airplane and our pilot training is great preparation. The jet is very similar in handling characteristics to the T-6.
Do you have any combat experience?
My combat experience with the A-10 was during Operation Enduring Freedom and we were stationed at Bagram AB back in 2013.
Have you flown the jet in manual reversion mode? How does the jet feel in that mode?
I have flown it in manual reversion. It is actually a requirement early on in your A-10 training. I'm also a Functional Check Flight pilot and we will test manual reversion on all of those sorties. It is a great system for what it was designed for which is to get you out of bad guy land so you can bail out closer to the friendlies. It's a bit mushy on the controls and pitch is influenced by power changes. Anyone who has successfully landed the airplane in man rev has my respect.
What is the most challenging thing about flying the A-10?
The most challenging aspect of flying the A-10 (or really any single seat fighter) is definitely weapons employment more so related to task management/saturation and battle tracking.
What's the most rewarding or meaningful thing flying the A-10?
The most rewarding part is hearing the relief of the guys on the ground once you open fire and help them break contact. Never gets old...
What is the most notable thing about shooting the gun?
Shooting the gun is a very visceral experience. You feel the aircraft shake, you smell the cordite, and you see the impacts. Nothing better.
What aircraft would you like to fly? Why? Past or present!
I would like to fly the Raptor for sure. I'm a big fan of purpose built machines that are extremely effective at their mission. The Skyraider, Mustang, and F-86 Sabre would also be on my bucket list. But the A-10 is definitely my favorite.
What do you enjoy most about flying airshows?
My favorite part about airshows is definitely meeting the people at the show, hearing their stories and their connections to the different airframes out there.
Where has been your favorite place to demo the jet? Why?
My favorite demo thus far has been MacDill. We were there with the Raptor team and had a Mustang for the Heritage Flight. Lots of family in town and a beautiful location. Louisville is a close second because it was my first over water demo and the airspace layout presented a unique challenge.
How much additional training is required of the Heritage Flight pilots?
Heritage pilots come out to DM AFB annually to train with the demo teams and help us learn how to fly with them. They have a background of a minimum of 500 hours of warbird time but obviously most of them have far surpassed that number.
What is the main challenge flying formation with a dissimilar type?
The most challenging part of dissimilar for me is the variations in available energy for each type of aircraft requiring very different power settings and corrections on my end. The Mustang is more slippery downhill than the A-10, requiring a good power bump to stay in position, where the Skyraider requires me to have my power almost all the way back where my engine spool time is the worst. So a little correction with the Skyraider has a significant lag which may then cause an overcorrection, so if you were watching closely, I'm making probably hundreds of tiny corrections to stay ahead of it.
It’s emotionally moving for us to witness a Heritage Flight pass; I know you’re focused on flying the jet during the HF performance, but have you had any notable interactions regarding the HF?
The first time I flew a Heritage sortie I was with Steve Hinton who was flying a beautiful P-40. A legend flying a legend was letting me lead him around. That is something I'll never forget.
What is next for you?
After next year I will do my best to train the next Demo pilot and I personally will find a way to keep myself in this great airshow community. I love the people and the venues and I'm really interested in keeping it going.