By LOLITA C. BALDOR
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — At the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, becoming a fighter pilot is still a hotly coveted goal.
But slowly, a culture change is taking hold.
Initially snubbed as second-class pilot-wannabes, the airmen who remotely control America’s arsenal of lethal drones are gaining stature and securing a permanent place in the Air Force.
Drawn to the flashy drone strikes that have taken out terrorists including al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen to the terror group’s No. 2 strongman Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan, airmen are beginning to target unmanned aircraft as their career of choice.
It’s a far cry from the grumbling across the air corps a few years ago when Air Force leaders — desperate to meet the rapidly escalating demand for drones — began yanking fighter pilots out of their cockpits and placing them at the remote controls of unmanned Predators and Reapers.