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German pilot flies with U.S. Air Force
Major Thomas Loweg is an exchange pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base assigned for a three year tour and the only "heavy" exchange pilot in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
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Exchange pilot calls Charleston home

Posted 12/30/2009   Updated 12/30/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Maj. Bill Walsh
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


12/30/2009 - BERLIN, GERMANY -- When the giant C-17 Globemaster touched down at Berlin's Schoenefeld International Airport, the pilot flying the aircraft spoke perfect German to the civilians who met the aircraft. That's because the Air Force airlifter was being flown by a German Luftwaffe pilot.

Major Thomas Loweg is an exchange pilot with the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base assigned for a three year tour and the only "heavy" exchange pilot in the Air Force.

"I love this airplane," Major Loweg said as he proudly maneuvered the C-17 over his homeland. "This has been a goal of mine for a long time."

Getting the assignment was no easy task for the German Airman. It was a long process of approvals that went all the way up the chain of command.

"I had to get the approval from the second highest general of the German Air Force," he explained.

Major Loweg did his primary flight training in Canada and followed on to the airlift world getting checked out in the C-160, a twin turboprop, a "mini C-130" as he described it.
"It's an older airplane," he said. "There is no C-160 younger than I am."

During a past Charleston Air Force Base air expo, Major Loweg had the opportunity to be part of the show flying in the German C-160 as a static display aircraft.

"I saw the C-17 and wanted to have the chance to fly a different airplane," he noted. "We only have the C-160 in Germany."

Setting his goal was a big step for him and his family. The major comes from a small village not far from Munich and has a wife and 5 year old son who had to pick up and move to Charleston.

"It was very hard at first and a big step for my wife and son," explained Major Loweg. "They have adapted well and are really enjoying the South Carolina lifestyle."

His new American comrades are also impressed by his flying skills and enjoy having him on missions, especially this one where his language skills came in very helpful when solving a maintenance issue with the locals.

"He's not only a great pilot, but a huge help when it comes to getting things done here for the crew," said Lt. Col. Craig Bartosh of the Air Force Reserve's 701st Airlift Squadron.
When asked about the differences between flying in the German Luftwaffe and the United States Air Force, Major Loweg said the average age of pilots is much younger.
"Our average age for pilots is older than the American pilots," he chuckled. "We still rely on the old guys!"

Learning to fly the C-17 though, was not an easy transition. The C-17 is a much bigger aircraft and more complicated with many different systems to learn.

"It's like learning to fly from scratch," as he explained his training program which took place at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. "The C-17 is an awesome airplane to fly."

Being assigned to a base with an associate Reserve wing, Major Loweg gets to fly with both active duty and Reserve aircrews.

"In our country we don't have a Reserve," he said while operating this mission with a "rainbow" crew of both active duty and reserve personnel.

Whether flying a local or heading overseas to his homeland, Major Loweg is proud to be a member of Team Charleston.



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