Altus AFB lets a seven-year-old be a pilot

Updated: Apr. 5, 2019 at 3:33 PM CDT
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ALTUS, OK (TNN) - A seven-year-old cancer survivor from Norman got to be a pilot at Altus Air Force Base on Friday. Sheridan's Sunshine Foundation, which raises money for cancer research and helps cancer patients and their families, partnered with the 75th Air Mobility Wing to make it happen through the “Pilot for a Day” program.

Zac Yanch, who was the honorary pilot, listened closely and took in every moment as he was given patches, climbed into the pilot’s seat, and got promoted to honorary colonel for the day. It’s designed to help kids and their families who have suffered a catastrophic illness. Zac is an osteosarcoma survivor.

"It was a really, really long journey,” Zac’s mom Jordan said. “It was tough on everybody. Cancer really affects the whole family."

This was a dream come true for him because in his long list of things he'd like to be when he grows up, being a pilot is on there. Well, that's until he got to explore the KC135.

"So they have pilots and boom operators. Which one would you rather be," Jordan asked.

"Boom operator," Zac said.

Over the past few years, Zac spent a lot of time in the hospital. Technical sergeant Justin Wright and James Bautista, with Sheridan’s Sunshine Program, hopes this helps in his recovery process.

"As soon as I got the opportunity to do this, I jumped at it,” Wright said. “It feels really great being able to help this family and Zac. It was really easy because everybody on base seems to feel the same way because as soon as I made a call, everybody was 100% in."

"It really, really, touches my heart a lot because that's what this is all about. Have the kids smile, laugh, see new things they haven't seen and maybe forget that they've had cancer just for a little bit means a lot," Bautista said.

Even though he got to go all over the base and see different things and crawl through the newest tanker they have, his favorite part might surprise you.

"Probably when I went on the firefighter cars," Zac said.

No matter what his favorite part or plane is, his mom is just happy that he's happy.

"This is something he can look forward to and really excited about and be special for a day instead of being special because he's different,” Jordan said. “He gets to be special because he's an awesome kid."

This is the first time the base has hosted the program in years, but they hope to start doing it more often.

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