F-16 Pilot Overcomes Most cancers, Purple Tape to Return to the Skies

Pilot callsigns can take the type of good-natured jokes, obscure references, or easy-to-recall nicknames. However for Capt. Charles Boynton, an F-16 pilot at Shaw Air Pressure Base, S.C., it’s a reminder of every little thing he’s gone by to get again within the cockpit

Dubbed “Atlas” after the determine in Greek mythology tasked with carrying the sky on his shoulders, Boynton has spent the previous 5 years or so battling first most cancers, then bureaucratic purple tape.

“There’s a way of respect a few name signal that equalizes everybody and often addresses one thing you’ve carried out up to now, good or dangerous,” Boynton mentioned in a press launch about his new callsign.

The twentieth Fighter Wing, to which Boynton is assigned, offered extra particulars on Boynton’s expertise to Air & Area Forces Journal.

Capt. Charles Boynton, an F-16 pilot with the fifty fifth Fighter Squadron, Shaw Air Pressure Base, South Carolina, prepares for take-off throughout Weapons System Analysis Program-East 23.08 at Tyndall Air Pressure Base, Florida, Could 24, 2023. (U.S. Air Pressure photograph by Jennifer Jensen)

Boynton’s Air Pressure journey started as an F-16 maintainer within the Air Pressure Reserve in 2012, whereas additionally a member of the ROTC program on the College of South Florida. Years later, after commissioning as an officer and finishing Preliminary Flight Coaching within the fall of 2017, he joined the selective 55-week Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Coaching Program (ENJJPT) at Sheppard Air Pressure Base, Texas. 

“I by no means thought I’d be a fighter pilot, as a result of everybody talks about how onerous it’s. You need to be high of the highest of the pilot selects and I didn’t assume I used to be high of the highest by any means,” he mentioned in a 2020 press launch. “I checked the field anyway. It was virtually a shot at the hours of darkness as a result of I by no means thought I’d be picked up by ENJJPT.”

However after he was chosen, one thing was incorrect. In response to the discharge, Boynton started to expertise excessive fatigue. It was a battle simply to remain centered, and he even questioned if he wished to finish this system. Psychological or bodily sickness is a delicate subject for navy aviators, whose careers rely on being medically cleared to fly. However Boynton knew he needed to speak with a health care provider after feeling bodily ache in considered one of his testicles.

“I knew for positive one thing was up when she advised me we should always get an ultrasound proper now,” he mentioned.

In July 2018, Boynton was identified with testicular most cancers. Most of every testicle had turn out to be a tumor, forcing medical doctors to take away them in a significant surgical procedure. Afterwards, Boynton’s medical crew found abnormalities in his abdomen, resulting in a second main surgical procedure. Regardless of the hardship, the pilot’s fellow sufferers at Moffitt Most cancers Heart in Tampa, Fla., gave him a way of perspective.

“Despite the fact that I used to be going by loads, if you stroll by the halls of a most cancers middle and see kids struggling, it’s humbling,” he mentioned in a launch. “Ever since I received identified, all of the medical doctors would inform me it’s a 98 % survival charge, so though I used to be in ache, I at all times knew it could possibly be worse.”

Boynton was declared to be in remission by September 2018, and Air Pressure medical doctors gave him a clear invoice of well being. The 2020 launch indicated it could take him only a few months to amass a medical waiver and get again to flying.

As an alternative, he confronted two and a half of years of frustration and uncertainty.

Making use of for medical waivers within the navy can usually be a time and labor-intensive course of, and it may be much more so for aviators. One Air Pressure neurologist, Dr. Billy Hoffman, advised Air & Area Forces Journal in Could that he usually encounters a concern of paperwork in his work with pilots. Hoffman and different researchers hope pilots can say extra about it in future research on healthcare avoidance amongst aviators, which they hope might sometime assist inform higher insurance policies and probably repair the ‘misinform fly’ component of pilot tradition.

Boynton specifically needed to face medical boards, push for an exception to coverage, and keep on monitor regardless of ideas he swap his profession subject.

He lastly returned to flight standing within the fall of 2020—and needed to restart pilot coaching in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been very annoyed for the previous two and half years, however I didn’t surrender, the battle is what I reside for,” he mentioned in 2020.

Over the subsequent few years, the battle began paying off. Boynton accomplished undergraduate pilot coaching in Could 2021, grew to become a certified F-16 pilot in July 2022 and eventually achieved fully-mission succesful standing in February 2023, just a few months earlier than heading to Tyndall Air Pressure Base, Fla., for the big coaching train Checkered Flag 23-2. So was it value it?

“Flying an F-16 is essentially the most troublesome but coolest factor I’ve ever carried out,” he mentioned in a launch. “It’s mentally and bodily rigorous and there’s at all times one thing to be taught or enhance upon each flight. It’s honoring to be given the chance to even set foot contained in the cockpit, not to mention be taken on an enormous flag train like Checkered Flag or Purple Flag.”

A U.S. Air Pressure F-16C Preventing Falcon assigned to the U.S. Air Pressure fifty fifth Fighter Squadron “Shooters” takes off from the flightline at Shaw Air Pressure Base, S.C., Nov. 10, 2022. (U.S. Air Pressure photograph by Airman 1st Class Steven Cardo)