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'An Amazing Opportunity': New Cadet Wings Flyers Discuss Experiences

Cadets from the Arkansas, California, Indiana, and South Carolina wings recently earned their private pilot certificates through the Civil Air Patrol Youth Aviation Initiative's Cadet Wings program.

Cadet Lt. Col. Katherine McKinney with Jeremy Lashbrook, her designated pilot examiner

Cadet Lt. Col. Katherine McKinney of the Arkansas Wing’s 42nd Composite Squadron in Little Rock is a finance major at Tulane University in New Orleans. Following college, she hopes to attend law school and join the U.S. Air Force. McKinney is working toward her instrument rating and plans and volunteer as a mission pilot for CAP in the future.

Q. How will earning your private pilot certificate help you at CAP? In your future career? In your life in general?

ARWG graphicA. I hope to become a mission pilot for CAP, as the idea of using my piloting skills to help people in need attracts me. As such, attaining my pilot’s certificate through Cadet Wings grants me the ability to take on this mission. As for my future career, I hope to join the Air Force after college and hopefully fly for the Air Force. In life in general, having a private pilot certificate grants me a sense of freedom and exhilaration that enriches my life.

Q. Describe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo? Where did you fly?

A. I was incredibly lucky during my first solo, as it was a clear, calm, spring day, perfect for flying. Nevertheless, I was still highly nervous before my first solo. As I took off by myself, I could not help but think, “Once I take off, there’s no turning back. I’ll have to see this through to the end.” That thought gave me the motivation to give my first solo my all, and the internal strength I needed to complete the takeoff.

I ended up performing three full-stop landings in the traffic pattern, which today would not be much at all but at the time felt like a major accomplishment. Completing my first solo gave me the confidence to continue my flying journey and continue pushing myself to achieve greater things.

Q. What got you interested in joining CAP? 

A. I was interested in joining CAP due to my love of aviation. Little Rock Air Force Base is home to a C-130 base, so I grew up watching them fly around Arkansas. This gave me a deep love for aviation, so Civil Air Patrol was a perfect match for me.AR42nd

Q. Anything else you would like to share?

A. For anyone working towards their private pilot certificate, I would encourage them to look into the numerous aviation YouTube videos on flight instruction. While preparing for my check ride, I watched numerous videos that were helpful in explaining maneuvers, displaying maneuvers, or simply preparing for my check ride.

Cadet Maj. Aiden Peck with Maj. Robin Kim

Cadet Maj. Aiden Peck of the California Wing’s Capt. Jay Weinsoff Cadet Squadron 3 in Van Nuys is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona. He is a third-year Air Force ROTC and looking to apply for the rated board this upcoming year. Peck’s career plans are to become an Air Force pilot and fly fighters, perhaps  F-35s or F-15EXs.

Q. What does earning your private pilot certificate through Cadet Wings mean to you?CAwing

A. Earning my certificate has meant the world to me! Being able to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a pilot and getting more involved with aviation has reassured my love for aerospace. With my certificate, my aviation aspirations feel so much more attainable, and my passion has grown exponentially.

Q. Did you receive a Ray Foundation Scholarship? Who was your Ray navigator, i.e. the mentor who worked with you and what assistance/inspiration did that person provide?

A. Maj. Robin Kim Clover Field Composite Squadron 51 was my navigator who got me to my solo in preparation for applying to Cadet Wings. He was very influential in helping me find a flight academy in 2021 and has always been a great resource for any questions I had.

Q. What did you discover about yourself while training to be a pilot?

A. I discovered that the two sides of training, both ground training and practical flight training, do not always progress at the same rate. CAweinsoffAfter completing my Federal Aviation Administration written exam, my ground skills were much more articulated, but I couldn’t say the same for my flying skills in the beginning. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable was something I was able to exercise in training.

Q. Anything else you would like to share?

A. Civil Air Patrol has quite frankly shaped me into the person I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t know where I would be. My love for aviation, science, math, and leadership was developed extensively in CAP, and I believe I am successful in Air Force ROTC and school today because of my experiences in CAP.

Cadet Col. Andrew Rowe

Cadet Col. Andrew Rowe of the South Carolina Wing’s Coastal Charleston Composite Squadron attends Clemson University, majoring in mechanical engineering, and also participates in Air Force ROTC. He has earned Civil Air Patrol’s top cadet achievement, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award. Rowe’s career goal is to be a pilot in the Air Force

Q. Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets?

SCWingA. Absolutely! The Cadet Wings program is one of the coolest opportunities I had in Civil Air Patrol and high school. Being able to learn how to fly in high school and not have to worry about funding was amazing. I look around at kids my age and realize just how fortunate I was to receive this scholarship.    

Q. How important was the financial assistance you received for this program in achieving your private pilot certificate?

A. This was very important. There is no way I would have been able to receive my private pilot certificate cense in high school if it weren’t for this scholarship.

Q. What did you discover about yourself while training to be a pilot?SCcoastal

A. I discovered just how fast one learns and becomes comfortable flying a plane. At one point I was struggling to land consistently. Then, a few months later, I was flying solo cross-country. I also discovered how much I love the technical aspect of flying, such as the communication part, and how to say what you to need to in the most efficient way possible. 

Q. Describe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo? Where did you fly?

A. On the flights before my first solo flight, I was working on landing consistently. After one landing the day of the first solo flight, we realized the winds were a little too crazy at Mount Pleasant Regional Airport, KLRO, my home airport. Instead, we flew to Berkeley County Airport, KMKS. After one landing, my instructor hopped out and told me to do three laps in the pattern. On my first attempt, I had to do a go-around. But I landed the next three landings without an issue. After my first solo flight, I never had the same issue with landings again. I felt like I conquered a mental block in that flight. 

adet 2nd Lt. Jared Smith with his designated pilot examiner, Dave Dodson (left), and certificated flight instructor, Corey Marsh.

Cadet 2nd Lt. Jared Smith of the Indiana Wing’s St. Joe Valley Cadet Squadron is attending at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville on a Falcon Foundation scholarship from the U.S.  Air Force Academy. He will attend the academy next year with the goal of becoming an Air Force pilot. 

Q. What does earning your private pilot certificate through Cadet Wings mean to you?INwing

A. Obtaining my certificate was an amazing experience. As the last thing I accomplished in CAP before leaving for college, it was a satisfying capstone to an amazing three years in the cadet program. 

Q. Describe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo. Where did you fly?

A. Before my solo, I was a little apprehensive, but once I got in the air I loved it. My first solo was just a couple laps in the pattern, but it was an amazing feeling doing it by myself.

Q. Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets? If so, why?

A.I would definitely recommend that cadets apply for Cadet Wings! It's an amazing opportunity for dedicated, hard-working cadets to get their private pilot certificate for free.  

Q. Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle?

A. At one point I was somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of training I needed to complete in the little amount of time I had before leaving for college. But I simply prioritized and maximized my flights and study time and completed everything without a problem. 

In 2019 the Air Force provided initial funding for and continues to support CAP’s Cadet Wings program, whose goal is to increase the nation’s pilot population. horizontal-logo-color_ray-foundationMore recently, a donation by the James C. Ray Foundation provides an additional funding source to open training slots for 30 Cadet Wings pilots. These training slots also include a dedicated CAP mentor, known as a Ray navigator, for the aspiring pilot. Cadets may qualify for up to $10,000 through the Ray Foundation Scholarships to train for their Federal Aviation Administration private pilot certificate.