Local Earns Wings Of Gold At Whiting Field

July 5, 2020

Lt.j.g. Lucas J. Zalar earned his wings of gold at Naval Air Station Whiting Field recently.

“Growing up in Pensacola definitely had an influence on me,” Zalar recalls.

“Between the Blue Angels shows, and the TH-57s that would fly low over Pensacola Beach, it would always make me think about how cool it would be to fly for a living.”

While the influence of his hometown was apparent, Zalar had even more influence at home. “My father who is still active duty was prior enlisted in the Air Force then became a Navy officer. Therefore, growing up I always had a strong affiliation and appreciation for the military.”

Being able to observe the opportunities and camaraderie that come from military service in his father all but assured his own desire to serve. While Zalar knew he wanted to serve, he went back and forth about whether naval aviation was right for him. In the end, he remarks that he was “lucky enough” to be selected as a student naval aviator (SNA) and given the chance to earn his wings of gold as a Navy pilot.

Zalar enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in quantitative economics, graduating and commissioning in 2018. His days of being a student would be far from over, however, because after commissioning Zalar went to NAS Pensacola for Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API). API is an intensive ground-school portion of flight training that takes place prior to SNA’s getting inside the cockpit of military aircraft.

Following API, Zalar began primary flight training in Training Squadron Six (VT-6), flying the T-6B Texan II onboard NAS Whiting Field. Zalar continued his training at NAS Whiting Field after being selected for helicopter advanced training, flying the TH-57 Sea Ranger in Helicopter Training Squadron Eighteen (HT-18).

“The experiences that we are able to participate in during flight school and the Navy in general are things that many people dream of doing but never will in their lifetime,” Zalar stated. 2

“Whether it be flying aerobatics in primary, using night vision goggles to fly your own route in advanced, traveling, and the friendships that I have made, these experiences are hard to find in any other occupation. Though these opportunities require a lot of training and are not just given to us, they make the hard work worth it,” he said.

Zalar is headed to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 2 (HSC-2), the “Fleet Angels,” to learn to fly the MH-60S.

“I am excited to be able to use the skills I have been developing as a pilot to actually complete the missions we train for in support of our nation’s goals,” Zalar remarked on his future in the Fleet.

Zalar plans on making a career for himself in the Navy, but one thing that he has become accustomed to in aviation training is the necessity to adapt when life throws curveballs. “Whether it be the flight schedule, a flight plan, or weekend plans, things are constantly changing on short notice and you need to be prepared and adapt.”

While some aspects of the future may be cloudy, there are some certainties for Zalar. “At the end of the day, I just hope to be the best officer and Navy pilot I can be so whenever I walk away from the service, I will leave it knowing I made a positive impact,” he commented.


4 Responses to “Local Earns Wings Of Gold At Whiting Field”

  1. mikey on July 5th, 2020 4:30 pm

    “Wings of Gold” are Navy Pilot and Naval Flight Officer wings. They are awarded at the completion of flight School. Flight school lasts about two years and is split into basic, intermediate and advanced. Depending on a students assignment to Jets, Props or Helo’s, the training can take place at Pensacola, Milton, Corpus Christi or Meridian. After earning their wings, newly minted pilots will go to a fleet replacement squadron to spend another six months to a year learning their fleet aircraft. It sounds arduous but it’s really a lot of fun. Lots of great flying and lots of time in the books getting ready for those flights. You need a 4 year degree to apply or, as this kid did, attend the Naval Academy.

  2. mick on July 5th, 2020 9:58 am

    Good job young man your hard work is going to pay off for you. Your are now a naval aviator, a cut above. I am proud of you and don’t even know you. Serve honorably and God speed.

  3. judy on July 5th, 2020 8:42 am

    What are “wings of Gold” and how does one get them? How many flight hours are required? Why do all pilots covet them?

  4. Fly Nay on July 5th, 2020 5:43 am

    Congratulations LT Zalar.

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