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Navy pilots take to local skies again

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U.S. Navy Capt. Kevin Delano, in front, is expected to return to Roswell next week. He is commodore of Training Air Wing 4, which is flying at the Roswell Air Center for about 12 days. With him in this February 2019 photo are Lt. Dane Robie of California and Ensign Renee Perry of Ohio. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The U.S. Navy has returned to the Roswell Air Center to conduct pilot training.

Thirty-nine trainees from Squadrons 27 and 28 arrived Feb. 1 and are expected to stay until Feb. 12.

The group includes 20 flight instructors and 15 civilian mechanics, or maintainers, and is headed by Capt. Kevin Delano, commodore of Training Air Wing 4, said Lt. Michelle Tucker.

They will be flying eight T-6B Texan II planes, said Tucker, a public affairs officer for the Chief of Naval Air Training, based at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The Navy has conducted its “primary” training for Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and foreign military personnel in Roswell several times in past years. This time, Navy and Marine officers make up the trainees, Tucker said.

Foggy conditions and low visibility prevalent in the Texas bay region can keep planes grounded for part or all of the day during the early months of the year, so Navy flight instructors and leadership have said that using the Roswell airfield allows trainees to complete more training sorties.

In early 2019, about 100 trainees with Training Air Wing 4 spent about six weeks in the area. But originally it looked as if funding constraints would mean that the Navy would not return to Roswell in early 2020.

“We were able to squeeze out a bit more funding,” said Tucker. “For the time of year, you can’t beat the weather in that area for training.”

Pilots that complete primary training can advance to additional training — as cargo, transport, helicopter or fighter pilots for the military — based on their abilities and desires and on-demand by military units.

Capt. Delano and others from Training Air Wing 4 are expected in Roswell next week to meet with Roswell officials and the news media.

“We are always pleased to serve our nation by providing a premier training facility for our nation’s military aviators,” said Mark Bleth, deputy director of the Roswell Air Center.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.