1Lt Dale Shillington, USAF was killed in a general aviation crash on July 21st. Shillington was stationed at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.

On July 21, America suffered a great loss. 1Lt Dale Shillington was killed in a general aviation crash just east of Enid, Oklahoma. He was riding along with the pilot, Randell “Randy” Lee Harris, who was supposed to be a performer in his Skybolt 300 bi-plane at the Vance Air Force Base (AFB) Airshow over the weekend.

Dale was a new FAIP (First Assignment Instructor Pilot) at Vance AFB, and had just completed the Pilot Instructor Training (PIT) program a few months prior. He was assigned to the 25th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) and was instructing in T-38C Talons.

For those readers who might not know what a ‘FAIP’ is, they are pilot training graduates that are selected to become instructors just after earning their wings. The FAIP program isn’t always the most sought-after assignment, but it is usually a testament to the students’ work ethic, maturity and performance in training.

Naturally, my opinions of FAIPs are biased because I used to be one.

Dale had just returned from PIT as I was leaving Vance for my current assignment. I had a few interactions with him prior to my departure and was immediately impressed. I could see why the 25th FTS chose to keep him around for another three years as an instructor.

Photo from 1Lt Shillington's memorial service. Courtesy of Vance AFB Public Affairs.
Photo from 1Lt Shillington’s memorial service. Courtesy of Vance AFB Public Affairs.

Apparently, I wasn’t the first person he impressed.

Here’s a small list of Dale’s accomplishments during his 2-year flying career:

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  • Red River Valley Fighter Pilot’s Association Robbie Risner Wingman Award
  • Undergraduate Pilot Training Leadership Award
  • Crane Award for the top pilot of 850 Pilot Instructor trainees…as a Lieutenant
  • 25th Flying Training Squadron’s FAIP of the Quarter
  • 71st Operations Group’s FAIP of the Quarter
Courtesy Enid News
1Lt Shillington, Courtesy: EnidNews

Also of note, almost immediately upon his arrival as an instructor, Dale was promoted to Assistant Flight Commander where he directly supervised the training of 10-15 student pilots. This responsibility is usually given to Captains with several years of flying and leadership experience under their belt.

Dale was taking on that task straight out of pilot training.

FAIP Mafia flags at half-staff in remembrance of 1Lt Dale Shillington. Courtesy of Vance Air Force Base PA.
FAIP Mafia flags at half-staff in remembrance of 1Lt Dale Shillington. Courtesy of Vance AFB Public Affairs.

Last week, the USAF lost a leader, a bro and an exceptional aviator. His achievements listed above just scratch the surface of who Dale was.

I knew Dale based only on our few interactions, but this accident has affected a lot of my bros (and bro-ettes) deeply, and I feel for their loss. I can name too many people that the USAF has lost too soon in the 6 years that I have served, and there is one common trend among them:

they were all exceptional people that made an impact on everyone they interacted with.

To be honest, it always seems to be the good ones that leave us too soon.

Nickle in the grass…

J. Kirkbride 

Dale is survived by his wife, and donations can be made in his honor to the River Rats’ Air Warrior Courage Foundation. Donations will directly benefit the children of fallen warriors.

Top Photo courtesy Vance AFB Public Affairs Office, USAF