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Q&A: Flying with Cadet Wings

New flyers from  the California, Michigan and Texas wings recently earned their private pilot certificates through the Civil Air Patrol Youth Aviation Initiative's Cadet Wings program, bringing the total number of new cadet pilots completing the program to 162.

Senior Member Naveen Abraham

MIwing1Former Cadet Col. Naveen Abraham, now a senior member in the Michigan Wing’s 176th Selfridge Composite Squadron, has focused solely on national activities after leaving for college. He’s interested in pursuing a career in aerospace medicine. 

Q. What got you interested in joining CAP?  

A. I actually did join CAP just to take advantage of the five free powered and glider flights … (but) ended up staying for all the incredible leadership opportunities available at the squadron, wing, and national levels.

Q. How will it help you at CAP? In your future career?

A. I’ve wanted to merge my interests in aerospace and medicine for a while now but was never really sure exactly how to. I think I want to go into aerospace medicine as a medical specialty, and this helps bridge the gap one step more.

Within CAP, I want to become a pilot for orientation flights for younger cadets because it would mean a lot to me being a part of many people’s first experience in a general aviation aircraft. 

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

A. Before my solo, I was just very anxious to get it done. I had to keep pushing it back many times because of weather, but I was leaving town for a month very soon, so I knew I couldn’t push it back any further.

The day before I had to leave, my instructor had to come in on his day off in order to let me solo. I’m very appreciative of him, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to solo when I did.

During the solo I actually didn’t feel any sort of way at all. I just did three quick laps in the pattern and came back. It felt like every other time I’ve done it with my instructor. It was after everything and on my way back home that the excitement started to sink in that I just did something really cool!

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

A. Earning my PPC means that I get the sweet satisfaction of finishing yet another thing that I have started many years back. I remember as a child always being interested in airplanes, watching … documentaries, and learning so much about the airlines. I thought I explored as much as I ever will about aviation through CAP, yet I never seemed to want to stop. Finally accomplishing my first concrete milestone in aviation such as this makes me feel like I’ve actually done something with my passion.

Cadet Lt. Col. Dylan Cabrera

TXwingCadet Lt. Col. Dylan Cabrera of the Texas Wing’s Apollo Composite Squadron plans to attend college to study meteorological science and then earn an airline transport pilot certificate to fly for an airline. His next step is to get a high performance/complex add-on to his rating.

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

A.     Earning my private pilot’s certificate through the Cadet Wings program is probably the best thing I have ever done. My dream, even before I became a cadet in Civil Air Patrol, was to become a pilot. At the time it seemed like such a distant goal, yet I was determined to get there.

I flew a little before I enrolled in the Cadet Wings program, but Cadet Wings is what made it financially possible for me to get a full flight training experience.

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

A.    I discovered that I was capable of doing things most kids just dream of because of CAP and the Cadet Wings program. Piloting an aircraft by yourself seemed overwhelming to a teen like me at first, but I have realized it is very much possible. The programs that Civil Air Patrol offers aims to treat kids like mature adults, and I really like that.

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

A.     The financial assistance was the most important part. Without it, I would not have been able to afford my private pilot’s certificate. This program was a dream come true because it made flying affordable.

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

A.    Cadet Wings through CAP is the way to go to get your private pilot’s certificate. I would highly recommend this program to cadets who want to become pilots. I tell cadets at events and at my squadron about the amazing opportunity that Cadet Wings presents every chance I get.

Cadet Capt. Kayden Maly with his examiner, Rick Savage.

Cadet Capt. Kayden Maly of the California Wing’s Sacramento Composite Squadron 14 is a sophomore at Sacramento State University and an Air Force ROTC cadet working toward a pilot slot in the U.S. Air Force.

Q. How will getting your PPC help you at CAP? In your future career?

CAwingA. Obtaining my PPC will allow me to work towards becoming a CAP certified pilot, allowing me to participate in aircrew operations, along with giving me a head start to earn a pilot slot in the U.S. Air Force.

Q. How did your flight instructor assist you during the program?

A. My flight instructor made sure training was consistent to maximize my flying ability to best prepare me for my check ride. He made sure that we were scheduled to fly more than four times a week.

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

A. I discovered that really taking your time and thinking critically about each action you take when flying can heavily impact a flight, positive or negative. And it’s important to always stay vigilant.

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

A. I would highly recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets that wish to earn their PPC. Cadet Wings really expedited my training and allowed to get to a level of proficiency that would have otherwise not been possible. 

Cadet Wings does a great job keeping track of cadets and their progress to help them succeed with getting their certificate.

In 2019 the U.S. 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. More 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 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.