Aviation

These Afghan pilots came to Fort Worth for training. Then they disappeared

Meacham Airport Turns 90

Fort Worth's municipal airport is expanding with new hangars and a renovated terminal and administration building as it turns 90 years old this year. (October 16, 2015) Video by Andrea Ahles
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Fort Worth's municipal airport is expanding with new hangars and a renovated terminal and administration building as it turns 90 years old this year. (October 16, 2015) Video by Andrea Ahles

A program to train Afghan pilots at Fort Worth’s Meacham Field has ended after many of the participants went absent without leave — or AWOL — according to the Air Force Times.

The report didn’t specify how many pilots are still unaccounted for, but indicated that it’s not uncommon for foreign pilots to go missing while in the United States for training — and, in many cases, resurface later and request asylum.

The Air Force Times cited a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction showing that, between 2005 and 2017, 152 of the 320 foreign pilots who went AWOL while training in the United States were from Afghanistan.

The training program, which opened with fanfare in September, was operated by Northrop Grumman at Meacham Field. The pilots were in Fort Worth for training on the AC-208 Combat Caravan, a light attack aircraft.

A 5,000-square-foot classroom space was completed for the training program.

Those pilots who didn’t go AWOL were sent back to their country to complete their training, according to the report.

Officials from Northrop Grumman declined to comment on the report, referring questions to the military.

Of those 152 Afghan pilots who went AWOL in the U.S., 82 remain unaccounted for, according to a special inspector general report published in October 2017.

The report says the large number of AWOL Afghan pilots creates morale problems for the other trainees, and also could lead to security risks.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.


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