Air Force fires colonel in charge of pilot training wing

"Commanders must uphold the highest standards and create and maintain a proper environment in their unit."

The Air Force has relieved a colonel in charge of a flying training wing last month due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command, the service announced on Friday. 

Col. Timothy Danielson, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing based at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, was relieved by Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, commander of the 19th Air Force. A press release did not identify specific reasons why Danielson was relieved. The 71st FTW’s vice commander, Col. Jay Johnson, has temporarily assumed command of the wing.

“Commanders must uphold the highest standards and create and maintain a proper environment in their unit,” Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, said in the release. “Our Airmen, families and the critical mission of training future pilots and leaders deserve nothing less.”

Danielson joined the Air Force in 1998, gathered nearly 3,900 flying hours in C-21, C-130 and KC-135 aircraft, and deployed in support of operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, according to his command biography. He took command of the 71st Flying Training Wing in June 2020.

“I am more than ecstatic to give back to young airmen,” Danielson told Enid News at the time. “We’re developing the world’s best pilots here, and when they mentioned this as a possibility to me, I was more than excited to come here.”

As one of the Air Force’s four undergraduate pilot training bases, Vance trains more than 300 American and allied pilots every year. The 71st FTW operates more than 200 aircraft, flies more than 50,000 sorties ad logs more than 74,000 flying hours in training aircraft such as the T-1A Jayhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon.

But training does not mean without danger. In November 2019 two Air Force pilots, Lt. Col John “Matt” Kincade, 47, and 2nd Lt. Travis B. Wilkie, 23, were killed at Vance during a training mission involving T-38C Talons.

The crash, which involved two separate Talons, caused the Air Force to stop using formation landings as part of its undergraduate pilot training curriculum. Kincade and Wilkie were flying at the left wing of a second T-38 to the center runway at Vance in a formation landing when their aircraft collided with the lead T-38, rolled over top of it and landed inverted off the runway. Both Kincade and Wilkie died on impact.

The decision to stop formation landings came only after the Air Force initially blamed the fallen pilots for the crash, Military.com reported last June. Formation landing is hardly used even by career aviators, a former F-15 pilot told Military.com.

Related: 52 years ago, this airman threw himself on a burning flare to save his crew

David Roza
David Roza

covers the Air Force and anything Star Wars-related. He joined Task & Purpose in 2019, after covering local news in Maine and then FDA policy in Washington D.C. He loves hearing the stories of individual airmen and their families, and he also holds the unpopular opinion that Imperial stormtroopers are actually excellent marksmen. david.roza@taskandpurpose.com Contact the author here.

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