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Seven-year-old boy who beat leukemia becomes a pilot for a day

pilot explains controls to kid

U.S. Air Force Major Jason Heffner, 56th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46 Pegasus instructor pilot, shows Noah Branscum, pilot for a day, the controls inside the KC-46 cockpit at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, April 9, 2021. Branscum, along with his family, were able to tour all aircraft at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kayla Christenson)

kid in control tower

Noah Branscum, pilot for a day, watches aircraft take off in the air traffic control tower at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, April 9, 2021. Branscum visited the base with his mom, dad, brother, sister, and grandparents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kayla Christenson)

airman talks to kid

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Brandon Schulze, 97th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman, shows Noah Branscum, pilot for a day, a liferaft at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, April 9, 2021. Branscum and his family also visited the air traffic control tower, Galaxy Grill, the fire department, flight simulators, the Military Working Dogs and static displays of the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III, and KC-46 Pegasus.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kayla Christenson)

pilot puts on rank on kid's flight suit

U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Leard, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, pins the rank of Lt. Col. onto seven-year-old Noah Branscum, pilot for a day, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, April 9, 2021. Branscum received his own flight suit along with unit patches and his name tape. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kayla Christenson)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Seven-year-old Noah Branscum, who battled leukemia two years ago, became a pilot for a day at Altus Air Force Base, April 9, 2021. 

Branscum along with his parents, siblings, and grandparents visited various places on base to interact and see what a day in a pilot’s life is like. 

Branscum and his family learned first-hand what Altus AFB’s mission is, “We train exceptional mobility Airmen.” 

“This is awesome, it reminds me of the students we teach here but to a greater degree, he’s just a kid and showing him something like this can change his life forever, that’s what’s important,” said Staff Sgt. Collin Green, 56th Air Refueling Squadron, instructor boom operator. 

Altus AFB’s vision of becoming the Air Force’s community of choice is driven by interactions not only with our Airmen, but also with those not in uniform. 

“This is one of our many ways to give back to the community,” said Green. “It is very important to show them and the American people who and what they are  supporting in the military.”

Branscum and his family had first-hand experience seeing the base’s air traffic control tower, Galaxy Grill, the fire department, flight simulators, the Military Working Dogs and toured the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III, and KC-46 Pegasus. 

“It’s hard to put into words, you just enjoy doing things as a family because you don’t know if you’re going to be able to do things like this again. So, you’ve just got to take it for what it is and enjoy it,” said Amber Branscum, Noah’s mother. 

Branscum and his family were selected for the pilot for a day program through the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases in Children in Oklahoma City. Branscum finished his treatment at the center, back in June 2019. 

“I try not to cry, it’s so exciting to see him enjoy stuff and have fun and not have to worry about things,” said Amber Branscum. “He’s only seven, he doesn’t need to worry about adult issues, it’s fun to just be able to see him play.”

ALTUS AFB FLICKR ALBUMS

Click on the link below to see all the photos from Altus AFB's official ceremonies.

Altus AFB Flickr Albums