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Central Washington University

CWU Student Selected for Elite Military Pilot Training Program

Slava Ulanovskiy has dreamed of flying planes since he was three or four years old.

“I was talking with my grandma and telling her that it would be so cool to be able to soar around up there,” he recalled. “It didn’t really occur to me, until my junior or senior year [in high school], that I should try to become a pilot.”

Ulanovskiy has been able to fulfill—and exceed—his dream at Central Washington University. He will soon start training that will make him one of the world’s elite pilots through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT) at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Ulanovskiy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Russian, and an aerospace studies minor, during CWU’s 2015 commencement on Saturday (June 13) in Ellensburg. Later that day, he also received his commissioning as a United States Air Force second lieutenant through the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.

Ulanovskiy is one of just 51 cadets, from 143 air force detachments nationwide, selected for the ENJJPT program.

“Almost all of the pilot candidates nationwide apply [to ENJJPT],” said Lt. Col. Richard Warr, CWU aerospace studies professor and commander of Detachment 895, known as the “Cascade Cowboys.” “That’s about 800 to 900 applicants overall.”

Warr notes that this is the third consecutive year that a member of the CWU detachment has been selected for the prestigious training.

“That is certainly atypical,” Warr added. “It’s an indicator of the quality of our cadets and the strength of our program overall.” 

ENJJPT is the world’s only multi-nationally manned and managed flight-training program. Its stated goal is to produce the world’s finest North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pilots.

“It’s a coalition effort,” Ulanovskiy pointed out. “So they send, not only students from the other NATO countries, but instructors too. They want to represent their countries well, so they send the best of the best. Making those connections, learning from those types of people, and meeting those types of friends is going to be amazing.” 

Ulanovskiy learned of his honor in a phone call from Warr. His selection was especially surprising, since he had actually applied for training with remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), essentially to become a drone pilot, as his top choice.

“When you do that application, you can still check off ENJJPT,” he explained, which he did. “I just wanted to see if my scores were competitive. I received the RPA slot and I was set on doing that.”

But Ulanovskiy’s plans changed dramatically after he received the congratulatory call from Warr, though he did take a couple of weeks to weigh his options.

“The lifestyles are a little different, the jobs are—obviously—different, and there are different opportunities that come from going either way,” he said of what he called a big decision and one that was not easy to make. “In the end, I needed to take it [ENJJPT], since so much can open up for me. It’s a once in a lifetime type of opportunity. I’m confident that I made the right decision and very excited for what lies ahead.”

ENJJPT is a 55-week, training program, encompassing four different areas: Undergraduate Pilot Training, Pilot Instructor Training; Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF); and IFF Upgrade Instructor Pilot training.

Judging by what he’s heard, Ulanovskiy acknowledges that ENJJPT will be “the most difficult year of your life. It’s all in progression; you do ground classes first and build up to flying and then on to different aircraft. They’re full 12-hour days that start at five in the morning and then you, basically, work non-stop. It’s stressful, high-paced, long hours pretty much the whole year.”

Graduates of the program, based on order of merit, have their choice of which military aircraft they want to fly. Ulanovskiy already has his sights set on recording high marks that could allow him to get into the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet and then on to the F-35, the country’s newest fighter aircraft.

“Traditionally, the reason ENJJPT is so prestigious is because everyone goes to fighters or bombers,” he noted. “It ultimately depends on what the Air Force needs but, if you’re at the top of your class, you’ll be able to pick the aircraft you want and, if it’s available, they’ll give it to you.”

Following their training, Ulanovskiy says he and his fellow ENJJPT classmates will be much better prepared to fight together—and win together—if the need arises.

Beyond ENJJPT, Ulanovskiy has even bigger ambitions and goals.

“My overall goal is to be an astronaut,” he stated. “ENJJPT is a good base to begin where I want to go but every astronaut is a test pilot. Experimental test pilot is what I’d go for. After you graduate from test pilot school you continue flying and then you can apply to NASA and go through that whole, giant selection process to try to become an astronaut.”

Admitting it’s another dream, and one that will involve luck combined with skill and training, Ulanovskiy says he’s come to terms with that fact. But he remains optimistic about his chances.

“I believe I’m in as good of a position at this point to achieve my goals as any person with the same aspirations,” he pointed out. “I think it’s a perfect time to get involved because of the new commercial spacecraft. There’s going to be a lot more traffic in the next decade or so up to space, to the ISS [International Space Station] and missions to Mars.” 

Ulanovskiy, whose given name is Vyacheslav, emigrated from Russia to the United States when he was five years old. He grew up in Monroe, where he played on the high school basketball team and participated in the high jump, long jump and triple jump for the Bearcats’ track and field team.

He is the first person from his family to attend college in the United States, coming to CWU to enroll in the aviation program. 

“For the first year here, I had no idea about the military,” he acknowledged. “People started telling me that I should try to join the Air Force. The more I learned about the program, the more I realized that this lifestyle was absolutely perfect for me. I’m also very excited to be able to do some good in the world, protect our country and everyone in it, help our NATO friends when they need it, and stop the people who need to be stopped.”

Ulanovskiy, who became a US citizen while attending CWU, reports to ENJJPT May 2, 2016. Ahead of that, he will marry his fiancé Casey Neumann in a ceremony scheduled for December 27.

“A lot of my friends are pilots and I, obviously, want them at the wedding,” he noted, pertaining to the date. “It’s [during] the only time they are guaranteed to have off. We have an idea of what we’re going to go through. She’s very, very supportive of everything that I’m doing.”

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