KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville seven-year-old was chosen to become an honorary pilot during the 134th Air Refueling Wing’s Pilot for a Day.
Elliott Crabtree started the day with the 134th Security Forces Squadron giving him an escorted ride to the base operations building. During the day, he was given a tour of the air crew’s flight equipment, go through the Boom Operator Simulator System, learn what it takes to perform in-air refueling, a walk through a KC-135R Stratotanker and get into the cockpit of a plane. He was also charged with inspecting four different areas of the base and giving them ratings.
His mother, Angela Crabtree, said Elliott enjoyed the day so much that he had trouble picking his favorite part. She told WATE that the day came about because a neighbor, Col. Ronald Selvidge, asked if the unit could do something special for Elliott.
“We showed up with minimal expectations, we just thought ‘it’s cool’ that we’re getting to go on a day that most people don’t get to. But it was so much more than than,” she said. “So it was a lot bigger than even what we knew we were getting into.”
Throughout his tour, he was given a flight suit with personalized patches, squadron coins and other gifts.
“I really just enjoyed being able to step back and watch him interact with other people and just witness the amount of thought they had put into this for him and the amount of kindness and the amount of personnel that were dedicated to making this day really special for Elliot,” his mother said.
Elliott ended the day at the Smoky Mountain Air Show practice, where he and his family were able to meet member of the Navy’s Blue Angels.
“He loved it. He was 100% full tilt excitement all day and then absolutely crashed when the day was over. He had so much fun,” said Angela. “We’re just really grateful for the experience and opportunity and love and kindness people have shown and we were just really grateful to be a part of this day and all the big things that came with it”
“It’s an opportunity to bring them out and show them just a great day. I think we may be getting more out of it than they do. It shows our folks while we’re here, we’re here to protect our community. When you see someone like Elliott that, that kind of recharges the batteries and it makes us appreciate while we’re here, we’re thankful to be able to give something back,” said Selvidge, commander of the 134th Operations Group.
According to Staff Sgt. Melissa Dearstone, this is the second Pilot for a Day event held by the 134th Air Refueling Wing. The first event was held in 2019 for AJ Cucksey and the event is meant to give children an immersive experience at the base.
This event is also not the first time Elliott has been given a special opportunity. In March, he was chosen to be the team captain for Tennessee Baseball as they competed in the 2022 Shriners Children’s College Classic.
“Elliott’s had a really neat life. I feel like his personality shines, even if he’s not speaking, or even if you don’t know him,” said Angela. “So everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve made really positive connections and this year that has, I feel like just yielded so many amazing opportunities.”
He suffers from a muscle disorder called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC). The disorder causes stiff joints and abnormal muscle development in children. Many children with AMC do not survive birth, but Elliot continues to grow. His mother said that Shriners helped them receive treatment to help Elliot do things many said he could never do.
“Elliot has had a fantastic year, especially post COVID, and we were kind of quarantined cause he is high risk and to just come out of COVID and have so many positive experiences has been really, really nice.”