JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
A family whose journeys in their recreational vehicle to places as far-flung as Alaska to the north and New Zealand to the west are captured on their popular YouTube channel will soon show their 100,000-plus viewers how the 12th Flying Training Wing’s aircraft simulator innovations are transforming pilot training.
The Leach family – father Marc, mother Tricia and sons Carson and Caleb – visited Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph March 11 and experienced simulated flight in virtual reality trainers at the 12th Training Squadron simulator facility and the 559th Flying Training Squadron’s home in Hangar 64.
The video featuring their trip to JBSA-Randolph and their simulator experiences will be presented on the Season 7 premiere of their YouTube series, “Keep Your Daydream,” in the coming weeks.
“This is such a big opportunity for the 12th Flying Training Wing and the Air Force,” said Maj. Zach Thuli, 559th FTS instructor pilot. “The YouTube video will help us get our message out to the Leaches’ big following, which is about half the size of the active duty Air Force.”
The Leach family, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, but spend much of their time traveling the country in “Ginger,” their RV, started living their dream on the road nearly three years ago – on May 27, 2016, to be exact.
Since that time, they have journeyed to destinations all over the United States – from California to Maine and numerous places in between – and into Canada and Mexico. Their trip to New Zealand is featured on Season 6 of Keep Your Daydream. The family’s adventures have also included their oldest child, daughter Victoria, but she has left the road to attend college.
The Leach family started with “big lofty dreams” that they thought would take a long time to realize, but they kept their daydream by starting small and starting “now,” Marc said.
“So we went out for six months, and that was three years ago,” he said. “That’s really the message we convey to everyone we talk to – what could you do right now to make it happen?”
It is also a message that Marc and Tricia have conveyed to their children.
“I think that we’ve shown them by example that you have to step exactly out of your comfort zone in order for new things to come into your life, and that can be scary,” Tricia said. “It takes courage and so that’s what we say to a few people who follow Keep Your Daydream every single day. Go ahead and grab on to that courage and maybe you have to close your eyes, but you need to take the leap. It takes discipline and a lot of things, but it’s that first step that’s the most important.”
In addition to starting their YouTube channel to inspire others with their daydream, the Leaches have their own website at http://www.keepyourdaydream.com, where their videos and podcasts can be viewed. Their website also features merchandise and a course on how to create a successful YouTube channel.
Thuli started following the Leaches’ RV odyssey more than two years ago and met them when they visited Austin about a year ago, soon developing a friendship with them. The Leach family came to JBSA-Randolph at his invitation.
The visit to JBSA-Randolph held special significance for 15-year-old Carson, who hopes to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and become an Air Force pilot.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to be in the military,” said Carson, who will leave the family’s journeys this fall when he attends Culver Military Academy in Indiana. “And as time went on, I switched from wanting to be in the military to directly dialing down on being in the Air Force. I’ve just been taking it step by step, knowing what I want to do and what plane I want to fly.”
The family’s visit to JBSA-Randolph has provided them – especially Carson – with insight into what it means to be on an Air Force base and experience pilot training, Tricia and Marc said.
“It’s given Carson, I believe, a perspective on what will be expected, what he can learn and how he can grow,” Tricia said.
“I think it’s one thing to say that you want to go to the Air Force Academy and you want to fly,” Marc said. “It’s another thing to really see what that means when you see it first-hand and you’re able to be on a base and say, ‘Hey, that’s what I might be doing.’”
Carson was especially impressed with the technology he encountered when he took the controls of a virtual reality trainer.
“I feel like this experience really did make me more excited to go to the academy and be a pilot because the technology’s only getting better for aviation and it’s more fun learning how to fly than it used to be,” he said. “I feel that it’s getting us more excited to go out and fly.”
Lt. Col. Joseph Stallings, 12th FTW chief of innovation, said the VRTs are just one example of the wing’s innovation efforts to increase effectiveness across its diverse mission sets.
“Empowering airmen to take risk at the lowest levels and experiment with emerging technologies is proving successful in several grassroots projects,” he said. “The wing’s 360-degree videos and virtual reality flight simulators have been publicized recently, but numerous other projects are also underway.”
Thuli said he was excited to share the 559th FTS’ efforts to leverage new technology that can augment existing training mediums to train pilots with the Leach family – and soon with their tens of thousands of YouTube viewers. He also hopes their brief immersion in the new technology – training in the VR simulator – will inspire Carson.
“Carson’s visit allowed us to share our ideas on how we use this technology, fueling his dream to serve as an Air Force officer and pilot, while also generating valuable feedback,” he said.