- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2013

It will take nearly five years for the Afghan Air Force to become fully capable of flying all types of missions, but some of its pilots are testing out the skies today.

The Washington Times flew on an Afghan-piloted Cessna 208, a small, single-engine plane that seats approximately eight passengers, earlier this week.

The flight, from Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan to Kandahar Air Base in southeastern Afghanistan, lasted for approximately an hour and a half and spanned roughly 240 miles of Afghanistan’s mountainous and arid terrain.

During the flight, there appeared to be no visible place to land if the aircraft malfunctioned or the pilot committed a major error.

Fortunately, there seemed to be no problems during the flight, which was piloted by 34-year-old Afghan Air Force 1st Lt. Mohammad Tawfiq.

Lt. Tawfiq has flown for about a year since graduating from Undergraduate Pilot Training at the Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas in 2011.

Asked why he wanted to join the Afghan Air Force, Lt. Tawfiq replied in English, “A soldier works on the ground. I like being in the air.”

He had no prior English-speaking skills until he joined the Air Force and began taking English classes.

Sitting next to Lt. Tawfiq was Air Force pilot Capt. Jason Star, who is an adviser with the Air Force’s 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. Capt. Star advised Lt. Tawfiq during the flight.

• Kristina Wong can be reached at kwong@washingtontimes.com.

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