'To be a Pilot ... the Ultimate Freedom': Cadet Wings Flyers Endorse Opportunity
Cadets from the Illinois, Virginia, South Dakota, and Washington wings recently earned their private pilot certificates through the Civil Air Patrol Youth Aviation Initiative's Cadet Wings program.
Cadet Capt. Animesh Bijawat. a member of the Illinois Wing’s Lake County Composite Squadron in the Illinois Wing, earned his private pilot certificate for gliders. Bijawat plans to apply to the U.S. Air Force Academy and train to fly fighters, then move on to piloting commercial jets after serving for 20 years.
What does earning your private pilot certificate through Cadet Wings mean to you?
Earning my PPC in gliders means the world to me, and I have fallen in love with gliders since my first orientation flight through Civil Air Patrol. Earning my gliders certification is one substantial first step in my path to my career as a pilot.
How did your flight instructor assist you during the program? What things did your instructor do that supported your training?
My instructor, Maj. Steven Snyder (of the Chicago Senior Squadron), is the best. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. He is very knowledgeable of the inner workings of the Cadet Wings program as well as a thorough, patient, and well-versed glider pilot.
He has been accommodating along my journey … being an ever-present source of inspiration and information for my millions of questions. He not only helped me himself but provided me with resources and opportunities for review sessions with senior pilots from my home airport. I am forever grateful to Maj. Snyder, and I hope to be the mentor to others as he was to me.
What’s most appealing about flying a glider?
I believe that the calmness of flying gliders appealed to me the most. There was no engine to worry about, no engine failures, no autopilot – just me, the plane, and Mother Nature.
Anything else you would like to share?
I look forward to mentoring cadets and helping them in their journey. I am incredibly grateful to the Cadet Wings program and staff, and I hope more cadets take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. I hope to guide others in CAP to help them achieve their goals in aviation.
Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Alexander Heinrich belongs to the South Dakota Wing’s Rushmore Composite Squadron. His career goal is to become an airline pilot.
How will earning your private pilot certificate help you at CAP? In your future career, and life in general?
Obtaining my certificate will help me teach other cadets about the benefits and fun of aviation, while making me believe that all goals in life, like a PPC, are possible with hard work and dedication.
Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets?
I would highly recommend Cadet Wings to any cadet interested in aviation. This would tremendously increase the chances for them to obtain their PPC. Cadet Wings was a big part of my success with my flight training and was always there to help me along the way.
How did your flight instructor assist you during the program?
My instructor was always supportive and positive throughout my flight training. He was always motivating me to do better and continue to finish my PPC.
What got you interested in joining CAP?
I originally joined CAP to learn more about aviation and leadership. I remember hearing a lot of recommendations to join CAP, and I don’t regret it. It’s been a big part of my life in developing as a person, getting great life experiences, and making lifelong friends. All the opportunities that CAP offers are something that I will always be grateful for.
Cadet 2nd Lt. Justin Paul, who belongs to the Washington Wing’s Yakima Composite Squadron, has been living abroad for the past two years in Doha, Qatar. He accomplished his Cadet Wings objectives in two months this year, from mid-June to mid-August, as a recipient of a Ray Foundation Scholarship with Maj. Brian Paul as his “Ray navigator.” Paul attended a CAP national flight academy last year and plans to commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy to be a naval aviator.
What does earning your Private Pilot Certificate through Cadet Wings mean to you?
A lifelong dream of mine, to be a pilot and to fly airplanes, has been realized. It has taken me 13 years since establishing that dream, but Cadet Wings has allowed me to accomplish one of my long-standing objectives in life, one I may not have been able to accomplish otherwise.
How will earning your PPC help you at CAP? In your future career? In your life in general?
One element of Civil Air Patrol that has always appealed to me, from when I joined at 12 years old to today, is the aerospace education and training portions. For my next steps, I plan to teach aviation to younger cadets and introduce the exclusive programs that Civil Air Patrol offers, including Cadet Wings, that I have been blessed to participate in.
Additionally, I plan to take a Form 5 check ride with Civil Air Patrol this winter break for purposes of qualifying as a CAP pilot. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. I can go as high as I want (no higher than 18,000 feet!) or as low as I want, as fast as I want or as slow as I want. Cadet Wings has allowed me to realize a dream: To be a pilot, soaring above the towns and cities of society. The ultimate freedom. It's kind of poetic, actually.
Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle? What was your biggest challenge in learning to fly? What would you tell other people in a similar situation?
There were more than a few times where I was thinking I wasn't going to make it. I was running out of time before my return to Doha, Qatar, and needed to get my license before I left. I got my license literally the day before I left.
Frankly, to overcome that problem, it was just to schedule as much time as possible. Make flying your No. 1 priority. Schedule the check ride as soon as possible to ensure you get a slot within the timeframe you need.
Cadet Chief Master Sgt. James Thomas, who belongs to the National Capital Wing’s Arlington Composite Squadron, hopes to fly for an airline or corporation.
Do you plan to continue building on what you’ve accomplished with an instrument rating, commercial rating, etc.?
I plan to start building time during college toward my instrument rating and hopefully during my summer breaks towards my multi-engine and commercial ratings. This will get me closer to the 1500 hour mark the airlines want and then test for my airline transport pilot license.
Describe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo? Where did you fly?
My first solo occurred at the CAP Southwest Region Powered Flight Academy in Shawnee, Oklahoma. It was a cloudy day, but the ceilings were high enough for me to safely complete my solo lap around the pattern. I remember pushing the throttle all the way in and the plane lifting off faster than it ever had before. The ground slowly sank below me, and I remember having this feeling of excitement and joy knowing I was in control of my plane and that I was doing this all by myself.
It honestly went by in blur; everything was happening so fast around me. Next thing I knew, I had my flight academy classmates cheering for me as I got out of my plane and my roommate and instructor dumping gallons of water on me.
What did you discover about yourself while training to be a pilot?
I learned that you always have to have confidence and patience in yourself while flying. Never force yourself into dangerous situations and be aware of all that is going on around you. Having confidence allows you to think clearly and not hesitate when making quick decisions that could have life or death situations.
Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets? If so, why?
Cadet Wings allowed me to achieve this huge milestone affordably. Many people know that flight training isn’t the cheapest, so being able to receive adequate training and having mentors and resources to help you be successful in getting your PPC was super-important and had a direct impact on my success in this program.
Cadet Wings gives any student pilot everything they need to reach this goal quickly, safely, and confidently, all while showing high levels of proficiency.
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.