Story by Roland Balik on 08/14/2019DOVER, Del. A total of 23 cadets, enrolled in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps and Air Force ROTC, descended upon Dover, Delaware to attend the eight-week AFJROTC Summer Flight Academy held at Delaware State University, June 17 through August 8, 2019.
The AFJROTC Flight Academy is a bold initiative intended to inspire and encourage high school students to pursue aviation careers and is designed to bring the luster of aviation to today's youth.
Summer flight academies were held at 11 partnering universities across the United States that offer accreditation from Aviation Accreditation Board International and Federal Aviation Administration Part 141 Flight Programs. Detachment cadre submitted application packages for more than 1,800 cadets, 150 of which were selected by Headquarters AFJROTC to attend this scholarship program.
"The AFJROTC Flight Academy Chief of Staff private pilot scholarship program is an eight-week summer aviation training program conducted at partnering universities nationwide such as DSU," said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Hales, DSU director of aviation programs. "Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded a private pilot's certification."
The AFJROTC Flight Academy is an important component to help solve the national aircrew shortage problem in both numbers and diversity.
"The scholarship program is a collaborative effort between the aerospace industry and the Air Force to address the national pilot shortage," said Hales. "Currently, Boeing predicts an annual need to hire 6,000 civilian pilots a year for the next 20 years. Military needs quickly push that number over 8,000 and according to the aviation industry and military leadership, our nation is now facing a pilot shortage."
AFJROTC is the USAF's largest educational program with 870 locations worldwide, 125,000 cadets and more than 1,870 instructors.
"The mission of the AFJROTC is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community. AFJROTC is not a U.S. Air Force accessions program and cadets are never under any obligation to join the military," said Hales. "AFJROTC is a Title 10 U.S. Code mandated citizenship training program that is designed to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship, promote community service, instill personal responsibilities, character and self-discipline."
During the eight weeks, cadets received 35 hours of classroom aviation academics and 35 to 49 hours of flight training in any of the 10 Piper Warrior single-engine aircraft that belong to DSU and are maintained and parked at the Delaware Airpark in Cheswold, Delaware.
During a visit to Dover Air Force Base, cadets visited aviation-related facilities, met with aircrew and support personnel and toured a C-17A Globemaster III static display.
"This has been a very, very fun opportunity for our aviation program [at DSU]," said Hales. "It's a win-win for us in the sense that it helps me in the aviation program keep our flight instructors busy during the summer time so they don't have to go out and find a summer job."
DSU's aviation program gave six primary and two alternate certified flight instructors the opportunity to provide cadets with day and night flight training instruction.
"We were here for one objective, to get our private pilot's certificate," said Cadet Madelyn Spitzer, from AFJROTC Detachment SC-951, Clover High School, Clover, S.C. "Because we all had the same goal, we hit the ground running. We learned how to stall, study and land in the first two weeks."
Maj. Paul "Loco" Lopez, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team commander and pilot stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, was the guest speaker for the Academy's graduation ceremony held on August 8 at DSU in Dover. He left the cadets with some encouraging words before they received their wings and private pilot's certification.
"Regardless of your career ambitions or aspirations, remember this day, remember the moment you soloed an airplane, remember the moment you passed your check ride, remember the moment you received your private pilot's license and earned the title aviator.' Think about the magnitude of what you accomplished here," said Lopez. "Let me be the first to tell you, the best is yet to come. I look forward to seeing what you will achieve in the next chapter."
Speaking on behalf of the cadets, Spitzer said, "We are eternally grateful for this opportunity whether we originally intended to go into an aviation career or not, this program gives us all a new found love and appreciation for flight."