Cadets from the Oregon and Virginia wings recently earned their private pilot certificate through the Civil Air Patrol Youth Aviation Initiative’s Cadet Wings program.

Cadet Maj. Annabelle Towles of the Virginia Wing’s Langley Composite Squadron is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. Her career plan is to commission as an officer in the Air Force. Towles also wants to fly F-22 Raptors, become a test pilot, and eventually become the first astronaut on Mars. 

VAwingShe hopes to earn an instrument rating while in college, continue on to flight school, and eventually transition to becoming an adult member of CAP. 

Would you recommend Civil Air Patrol to other youth?

Civil Air Patrol as a whole is an incredible opportunity, and it contains so many subprograms with their own once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I would encourage cadets to be very proactive in seeking opportunities, to make good on those opportunities, and then to give back as much as they can. There are few things more rewarding.

VAlangleyDescribe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo?

I was extremely excited for my first solo, and when it happened, the experience was surreal. Then, in the air, it felt strangely normal and natural. If I needed an indication that a flying career was right for me, that was it.

I soloed at Chesapeake Regional Airport, an untowered airport in Southeastern Virginia. Afterward, I felt unstoppable.

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

A. I have always been very interested in flying, but I would not have been able to afford flight training without Civil Air Patrol’s generosity. My certificate was funded completely through three Civil Air Patrol scholarships and one third-party scholarship my Civil Air Patrol squadron broadcast. Completing my private pilot certificate not only fulfills a personal goal but will also be very helpful in my Air Force career as I work toward a pilot slot after the Air Force Academy.

Cadet 1st Lt. Jadon Santarpio of the Oregon Wing’s Columbia Composite Squadron plans to become a certificated flight instructor and accumulate hours before deciding flying for an airline or a small cargo company or as a corporate pilot. or working for a small cargo company.

Santarpio, who says he was a huge aviation and military nerd when he joined CAP at age 12, is finishing an associate degree in aeronautical science at Green ORwingRiver College in Auburn, Washington. 

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

It’s hugely important to me, and it’s a milestone event in my life. I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was 10 years old, and Cadet Wings helped me to financially reach this long-term goal of mine.

How will it help you at CAP? In your future career? In your life in general?

It allows me to be a role model for younger cadets in the squadron, demonstrating that it’s possible for them to become pilots or just achieve major accomplishments in general. In terms of my career, I want to be a commercial pilot, and Cadet Wings has gotten me through a huge milestone at the mere age of 18.ORcolumbia

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

I discovered that I’m far more capable than I thought I was. Flight training put me through several stressful situations, both on the ground and in the air, and I was surprised with how I was able to cope with them.

Furthermore, I learned that I’m capable of achieving my goals and that I can overcome the challenges that still remain ahead of me.

usaflogohorizontal-logo-color_ray-foundationIn 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 60 Cadet Wings pilots. These training slots also include a dedicated CAP mentor for the aspiring pilot. Cadets may qualify for up to $10,000 with a James C. Ray Flight Training Scholarship to train for their Federal Aviation Administration private pilot certificate.