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Home : News : News
NEWS | Oct. 5, 2021

CRAFT program helps optimize pilot training

By Olivia Mendoza Sencalar 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Nineteenth Air Force trains students to become aircrew capable of flying every airframe in the Air Force inventory, as well as warfighters assigned to Nineteenth Air Force components, as they prepare to deploy for combat operations.

“While the latest generation of aircraft are unquestionably technological marvels, the decisive advantage has always been, and remains, the human,” said Maj. Heather Tevebaugh, 12th Operations Support Squadron.

The Numbered Air Force’s aircrews are versatile, lethal weapon systems, but unfortunately, the deliberate investment in human performance can sometimes lag when compared to aircraft and weapons,” said Maj. Carolyn Price Moore, Nineteenth Air Force.

To address this shortfall, Nineteenth Air Force is developing the Comprehensive Readiness for Aircrew Flying Training, or CRAFT, program.

Nineteenth Air Force is in the process of developing functional training centers across the Undergraduate Flying Training enterprise designed to meet the unique physical and cognitive demands of Air Force aircrew. These facilities will incorporate job-specific conditioning, cutting-edge technology and easy access to pre-hab and rehabilitative physical therapy.

The CRAFT program’s objective is to address the chronic musculoskeletal pain experienced by the aircrew population, increased cognitive demands of modern flying operations, and the need for holistic resiliency.

The multiple domains of CRAFT – nutrition, strength and conditioning, and cognitive performance – function holistically to address these issues, working with UFT students and instructor pilots in groups and individual training sessions.

The CRAFT personnel consists of cognitive performance specialists, a performance dietitian, as well as strength and conditioning coaches.

The UFT students and instructor pilots will have the opportunity to have a body composition assessment. A performance nutritionist will measure body composition, including body fat percentage, lean body mass, fat mass, visceral fat level and total body water analysis. Students will also have a chance to discuss short-term goals, long-term goals and develop meal plans during one-on-one counseling sessions. 

“We are here to help the students make better decisions,” said Dwight Allison, CRAFT performance dietitian. “It benefits them, in the long run, to have a healthier lifestyle once they complete the program.”  

The Cognitive Performance specialists provide classroom training, activity-based training in conjunction with physical training, and one-on-one sessions, enhancing students’ learning speed, improving recall, building their ability to learn from and maintain composure following failures, and improving cognitive performance. This training is intended to help strengthen the students’ control over their attention and build perceptual abilities.

The specialists also provide training and coaching to instructor pilots for the purpose of making them more effective coaches to students.

The strength and conditioning coaches discuss and develop specific programs designed to meet the demands of the airframe while also meeting the goals of the pilot.

 The programs are intended to help the pilots improve strength, stamina, power and overall health.

“The best thing about this is program is that we have a professional building a specific program tailored to all individual needs based on assessment, testing and mission,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Osheka, 560th Flying Training Squadron pilot training instructor. “The strength and conditioning coaches are there to help people through the program and teach them how to be fundamentally sound, rather than just sending a generic workout. They create a holistic program that highlights deficiencies and works specifically on what we do in the cockpit.”

“Strength and conditioning is important for pilots because it allows them to substantially reduce chronic injuries and ailments over a career, combats G-force induced loss of consciousness, increases the effectiveness of the anti-G straining maneuver breathing and contraction, and reduces muscle fatigue during and after a flight,” said Jeff Tietz, CRAFT strength and conditioning coach.

“The CRAFT program provides a holistic array of resources to pilots, helping them to be more educated about domains that impact performance in their airframe and equipping them to engage in training and make choices that can enhance their performance throughout the pilot training pipeline and beyond,” said Dr. Tiz Arnold, CRAFT program manager.  “From learning more effective study strategies to honing their ability to control their focus to making nutritional choices that better fuel their bodies, to learning to train their bodies smartly, and strategies to recover from physical exertion, the CRAFT program helps current and future pilots to become successful.”

“I really do enjoy the physical training, along with the mental activities to help my performance when flying,” said 1st Lt. Analise Howard, 435th Flight Training Squadron.

Currently underway, the CRAFT program is being incorporated into the remotely piloted aircraft and basic sensor operator courses, as well as the pilot instructor training pipeline.