Youth enjoys being pilot for a day

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Beth Kobily
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

There was a new officer on the flight line at the 911th Airlift Wing on Tuesday, June 27, 2017; Honorary 2nd Lieutenant Samuel Olsavsky was sworn in as the base’s newest pilot for a day.

Samuel, 15, was nominated by the staff at Allegheny Health Network for the Pilot for a Day program after he underwent surgery for scoliosis.

“He was diagnosed about two and a half years ago,” said Cathy Olsavsky, Samuel’s mom. “With the progression of the curve in his back they needed to brace him; he was in a brace that went from under his arms down through his hips which he had to wear for about 22 hours a day.”

Even after wearing his brace for about ten months, Cathy said the curve in Samuel’s spine had progressed so rapidly it required surgery.

“They did the spinal fusion,” said Cathy. “It was about a ten and a half hour surgery in which they put screws in his vertebrae. He has two titanium rods running down his back which they covered with bone chips.”

Cathy said Samuel came out of surgery still smiling. He is now recovering well, and should be able to play soccer when he enters 11th grade.

 “Sam was so positive and friendly,” said Kaitlin Striker, child life specialist with Allegheny Health Network, who had spent time with Samuel before and after surgery. “I just knew he was going to enjoy this program.”

According to Samuel, Kaitlin was spot on. During the day, he enjoyed touring the base in a Humvee, experiencing virtual reality in a parachute simulator, visiting the 911th AW’s Navy counterparts at the Navy Operational Support Center Pittsburgh, and learning about the various weapons the 911th Security Forces Squadron had on display. He especially enjoyed getting to taxi in a C-130 Hercules.

“My favorite part was taxiing because I got to see the whole airport and the planes flying in and landing,” said Samuel with a smile.

Overall, the day was a success for the Olsavsky family and everyone involved.

“It was so much more than I expected,” said Cathy about Samuel’s time on base as a pilot for a day. “I didn’t really know what to expect, and it was a phenomenal day.”