Shriners Hospital patient earns wings for 'Pilot for a Day'

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A once in a lifetime opportunity was given to an eight year-old Shriners Hospital patient who was invited to be a Fairchild Pilot for a Day Sept. 22.

Toby Lee earned his honorary pilot’s wings over the course of just one day here, while other pilots usually go through months of training to become certified.

The “Pilot for a Day” program provides disadvantaged or seriously ill children an opportunity to spend a day with members of Team Fairchild and become an honorary pilot. The 93rd Air Refueling Squadron partnered with Shriners Hospital and made it possible for Toby to fly a KC-135 simulator, tour a real KC-135 Stratotanker and air traffic control tower and participate in many more activities not many people ever get to experience.

“Shriners just called us one day and informed us about Fairchild’s Pilot for a Day program and that Toby would be a good candidate to go,” said Meggan Lee, Toby’s mother. “They talked to Toby’s physical and occupational therapist and had approved for him to be a Pilot for a Day.”

Toby was born with a neuronal migration disorder, a group of birth defects caused by the abnormal migration of neurons in the developing brain and nervous system. In Toby’s case, the disorder affects the entire left side of his body.

“Toby experienced a stroke when he was still in the womb,” Meggan said. “He’s had this disorder his whole life.”

Toby arrived at Fairchild, along with his family, and was welcomed by Col. Scot Heathman, 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, along with members of the 93rd ARS. Toby was then given his own flight suit to wear for the whole day and was presented with several patches including a 93rd ARS squadron patch and a special ‘Pilot for a Day’ patch.

The 93rd ARS had arranged a day full of fun activities for their special visitor. In the middle of the tour, Toby’s experience was given special attention when he was interviewed by KREM 2 News.

“Other than the flight suit, the KC-135 simulator was the best part because I got to fly the plane around,” Toby said. “It was fun. Maybe one day I will become a pilot, but for now I still want to be a ninja.”

He asked if he can keep the suit on until tonight, Meggan added.

Toby’s flight simulator experience included taking-off and landing the aircraft, flying over downtown Spokane, Hawaii and performing four barrel rolls. He concluded his flying experience by showing off his new piloting skills to his family, explaining what each control was for.

“We are so thankful,” Meggan said. “This was amazing for Toby to see and experience at such a young age.”