Oldest pilot in the Air Force
Lt. Col. Jim Routt is the 550th Special Operations Squadron chief pilot.
Kirtland pilot earns international award

by Stefan Bocchino
377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

8/11/2011 - Kirtland Air Force Base -- The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators based in London, England, has awarded Lt. Col. James Routt, the 550th Special Operations Squadron chief pilot, the Master Air Pilot certificate for 2010 to 2011. He is the first U.S. Air Force pilot to be so honored by the Guild.

The award will be presented Oct. 27 to Routt at the Guild's annual Trophies and Awards dinner at the Guildhall, in London.

"We were notified by our leadership that the opportunity existed to nominate an individual for an award under GAPAN," said Lt. Col. Matt Magness, 550 SOS commander. "There were quite a few categories, however, in the one category where we saw we could compete, one name came immediately to mind who had the right stuff. That was Lt. Col. Jim Routt, a truly amazing officer who embodies not just our Air Force core values, but is in his fifth decade of flying and service."

According to the nomination package, Routt is considered a legend in the special operations and rescue flying communities. Routt entered the Air Force in 1970 and is the oldest active-duty pilot in the history of the Air Force. He has more than 8,100 hours in both military and civil aircraft. He has personally trained more than 1,000 pilots and helped more than 6,000 aircrew members graduate.

"I felt humbled about the whole thing," said Routt. "Lt. Col. Magness felt like this would be like a lifetime achievement award for me, since I spent most of my career in the schoolhouse teaching special operations forces and rescue crews. He felt like it would be a good culmination of a 30-plus-year career in the Air Force."

Routt entered the Air Force in 1970 and started his career flying B-52s at the end of the Vietnam War. Then he transitioned to flying WC-130s. The WC-130 mission was to penetrate typhoons for the Air Rescue and Recovery service.

He was awarded three Air Medals for his 49 typhoon penetrations. During that time, he also started training aircrew members.

Because of the instructional ability he showed while training crews in typhoon penetration, Routt was recruited as an instructor for HC-130s at the 1550th Wing, now the 58th Special Operation Wing, at Kirtland Air Force Base. Routt was one of the initial cadre for building the Special Operations Improvement Training Program that is the basis for training special operations and rescue aircrew today.

Routt retired from the Air Force in 1996. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he volunteered to come back on active duty. He has served with the 58 SOW since his return,
training pilots, navigators and other aircrew members.

"Routt deserved consideration under the Guild for this award due to the historical nature of his service in the Air Force," said Magness. "I am very glad that the Guild opened up their nomination criteria for U.S. Air Force aircrew and I couldn't be more happy for Jim's selection. I hope the GAPAN continues to ask for U. S. Air Force nominations as I am sure there will be other momentous recognitions to follow. I am very proud that Jim was the first."

GAPAN was established in the United Kingdom in 1929 to protect the interests of aircrew and to benefit them as guilds had historically served other skilled groups.

The award of the "Master Air Pilot" certificate, signed by the Grand Master, currently His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is an honor for a pilot, not necessarily a member of the Guild, who in the opinion of the Court, displayed over a number of years those qualities of pilotage, airmanship and character that have brought honor and respect to the profession. The award is in recognition of long service and consistently high standards in professional flying.

"I never thought that one, I'd be in the Air Force this long, but more importantly, honored for my achievements in training the new generation of pilots, navigators and aircrew," said Routt. "I think it's a testimony to the people I work with who feel I was worthy of such an award. I hope I've made a difference here in teaching and instructing, a couple of things I really love to do."