19:51 PM

10 Cadets Solo at N. Central Region Glider Academy

Ten cadets from six wings made solo flights in the North Central Region Glider Flight Academy, held at Sunflower Glider Port in Yoder, Kansas.

Six certified flight instructors for gliders, three tow pilots and five senior staff members used six gliders and three powered planes to share fundamental principles of flight with 18 cadets in all during the 10-day course, conducted in heat exceeding 100 degrees. In addition to the eight who soloed, seven earned their pre-solo wings.

The cadets developed mental attitudes favoring safety, situational awareness, anticipation and planning for the unexpected by participating in structured ground school and hands-on flight training.

Cadet 2nd Lt. Malachi Feil of the Kansas Wing’s Emerald City Composite Squadron was recognized with the Distinguished Graduate Award and also received a scholarship to a 2022 National Cadet Special Activity for his group leadership, team spirit and overall improved aviation skills.

Feil became a favorite among academy participants after teaching sea shanties to his fellow cadets in hopes of distracting them from the heat. His musical talent and leadership led, in part, to the development of an original cadet “Sunflower Shanty” that the cadets proudly sang during their graduation ceremony.

Cadet 2nd Lt. Katherine Crane of the Florida Wing’s Homestead Air Reserve Base Cadet Squadron and 2nd Lt. Liz Botkin of the Minnesota Wing’s North Hennepin Composite Squadron received academy challenge coins in recognition of their endurance following Crane’s admission to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center for an emergency appendectomy.

Botkin, public affairs officer for the academy, transported Crane to and from the hospital and waited with her before and after the procedure. While her condition prevented her from completing the flight academy, Crane plans to return to the activity.

Special recognition

Cadet Master Sgt. Thomas Botkin of the North Hennepin squadron earned the Wingman Award after peers and staff voted to acknowledge him for providing offered support, camaraderie and team spirit. Both Feil and Botkin received a set of aviation headphones donated by senior staff member 1st Lt. Bill Roberts’ employer, BRG Precision Products Inc. Both cadets said the equipment will be put to good use as they pursue aviation careers.

In addition to the already-lengthy checklist to become a glider pilot – demonstrating the ability to consistently take off, release, fly and land the aircraft with no assistance from their certified flight instructor – the graduates also completed a pre-solo flight with a different instructor than their principal instructor to prove they’re in full control of the craft.

"During a 10-day academy, we hope for about 40% of the cadets to solo,” said Lt. Col. Doug Dutton, commanding officer. “At this year’s academy we had 60% complete a solo flight, and we would have had more if we didn’t have to stop flying on the last day due to high winds.”

“The CFIs train us to imagine there is a brick wall at the end of our goal touchdown point,” said Botkin, who completed 30 glider flights before flying solo. “The winds were in my favor on my solo flight, and I was able to stop the glider within a few feet of my target.

“It’s a great feeling to be released at 1,800 feet above ground level and control the aircraft to a precision stop.”

The 10 cadets who earned glider solo wings were:

  • Cadet Lt. Col. Kevin Shen, Nittany Composite Squadron, Pennsylvania Wing
  • Cadet Capt. Ethan Quinn, Doylestown Composite Squadron 907, Pennsylvania Wing
  • Cadet 1st Lt. Thomas Zapel, Air Academy Cadet Squadron, Colorado Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Lt Malachi Feil, Emerald City Composite Squadron, Kansas Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Sydney Loos, Mustang Cadet Squadron, Colorado Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Elisha Rhoades, Eire Composite Squadron 502, Pennsylvania Wing
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Truvor James, Victor A. Hammond Composite Squadron, Ohio Wing
  • Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Jared Smith, St. Joe Valley Cadet Squadron, Indiana Wing
  • Cadet Master Sgt. Thomas Botkin, North Hennepin Composite Squadron, Minnesota Wing
  • Cadet Senior Airman Joseph Bacon, Emerald City Composite Squadron, Kansas Wing

Cadets earning their pre-solo wings were:

  • Cadet 1st Lt. Micah Jungling, Broomfield Composite Squadron, Colorado Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Austin Haubenstricker, Dubuque Flight, Iowa Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Edna Oswald, Pratt Valley Composite Squadron, Missouri Wing
  • Cadet 2nd Lt. Mason Pridgen, Dothan Composite Squadron, Alabama Wing
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Destany Roberts, Emerald City Composite Squadron, Kansas Wing
  • Cadet Chief Master Sgt. John Tabor, St. Paul Composite Squadron, Minnesota Wing
  • Cadet Airman 1st Class Everett Crane, Homestead Air Reserve Base Cadet Squadron, Florida Wing