12:17 PM

Q&A: New Pilots Discuss Cadet Wings

Cadets from the Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey wings have gained 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 152.

Cadet Capt. Jonathan Norber

ILwingCadet Capt. Jonathan Norber of the Illinois Wing’s Col. Charles Compton Composite Squadron is the 150th cadet to earn his certificate through Cadet Wings. He’s interested in a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and will attend the University of Chicago this fall with a double major in physics and either molecular engineering or economics. He hopes to get his instrument rating, commercial certificate, a CFI rating, a glider add-on rating, and a tailwheel endorsement.

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

A. It makes me proud to know that I earned my certificate through an organization that has supported my aviation dreams since the beginning, that will continue to support me as I grow as a pilot, and that I will soon be able to give back to in order to support other youth just like me who set their goals and dreams high in the sky.

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

A. One of the best things about flight training is the confidence you build. Flying requires precise division of attention across many tasks, and that has always been the hardest part for me. When I started training, I remember thinking there was no way I could do so many things at once. However, with time I built skills and each task got more intuitive, until eventually it all started to click together, and I had accomplished things I could not believe were possible.

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

A. Before my first solo I was terrified. I had heard stories of friends of mine who had described their own first solos as very terrifying, so I was preparing for the worst. But the moment I took off, I suddenly felt extremely calm. I realized that flying this airplane was no different than what I had been doing with my instructor, and I felt amazing to finally be able to fly by myself. I felt euphoric as I flew those three takeoffs and landings; my first solo was one of the greatest days of my life.

Q. How did your CFI assist you during the program? What things did your CFI do that supported your training?

A. My CFI was always there to help me. At moments where I was struggling, he would meet me where I was at, and he always had something helpful to explain or show me. He was extremely encouraging and gave me the confidence I needed.

Cadet Airman Ibrahim Abdirahman with his pilot mentor, Maj. Cathy Plasschaert

MNwingThe 151st Cadet Wings graduate is Cadet Airman Ibrahim Abdirahman of the Minnesota Wing’s Viking Composite Squadron, who’s also the second cadet to earn his certificate with the support of a scholarship from the Ray Foundation, which provides for a Civil Air Patrol mentor. 

Abdirahman has starting instrument rating training and hopes to fly commercial aircraft for a major airline.

Q. You received a Ray Foundation scholarship, which includes a CAP mentor to ensure that you completed your PPC. Who was your navigator, and what assistance or inspiration did that person provide?

A.   My mentor was Maj. Cathy Plasschaert. She helped throughout my training and helped me understand everything about the program. She inspires me because she is an airline pilot, and that is what I want to become when I get my training done. Having her as a mentor helps me understand, and get a glimpse of, what I can accomplish. My mentor was also my checkride examiner, so I have flown with her as an examiner, which was a lot of fun, but made me nervous at the same time, since it was a checkride.

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

A. I discovered that anything is possible if you dedicate yourself to getting it done and persevere through the hard times. My solo was definitely the best feeling I've ever had. Before the solo I was so nervous about the flight, but I knew I was capable of flying the aircraft by myself, and I did just that. I took a deep breath and executed. During the flight it felt like my CFI was in the right seat the whole time, and I could actually hear him say check your airspeed and altitude.

Q. Why did you join Civil Air Patrol?

A. I was interested in joining CAP because they do what I love, which is fly airplanes. Seeing kids my age and younger who were also interested in aviation was definitely an environment I wanted to be around. CAP also offers leadership and whole other stuff which I really enjoy as well.

Q. Would you recommend the Cadet Wings program to other CAP cadets?

A. I would definitely recommend the Cadet Wings program to anyone interested in aviation and flying. It helps with taking the first initial step towards becoming a pilot. My certificated flight instructor was really supportive when it came to teaching me the fundamentals of flying and the knowledge that was required to pass my checkride. The financial assistance I received from the Cadet Wings program was a huge deal for me.

NJwingCadet Capt. Aram Vlahogiannis of the New Jersey Wing’s Teterboro Composite Squadron is the 152nd cadet to earn his private pilot certification through Cadet Wings. He hopes to give back to CAP by training as an aircrew member and possibly becoming an instructor or orientation ride pilot.  He will attend Vermont Technical College this fall for electrical engineering with a career focus on radio electronics.

Q. What got you interested in joining CAP? 

A. I joined the program because of my interest in aviation, but I ended up getting involved with basically every other aspect of the program.

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

A. What stands out to me most that I learned in my training is the boost in confidence I gained. It took a lot of practice and hard work to make it to the end, but when I finally did, it felt amazing. I realized that if I can become a licensed pilot, there isn’t really anything I can’t do. Flying on my own after passing my checkride, that really set in – as well as the realization that I was fully and solely responsible for the flight – but also completely capable.

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

A. Flight training can be very expensive, and as such, this program was critical for me to get this certificate. I don’t believe I would have been able to do it otherwise.

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

A. My first cross-country solo was to Sullivan County Airport (KMSV). By the time I had made it to this point, I was comfortable with doing it and knew I would have no problem completing it. Still, during the flight, I felt very free and gained a huge confidence boost in my abilities.

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.