Cadet Capt. Josh Cucci of the California Wing’s Saddleback Composite Squadron attends San Jose State University, studying aviation and professional flight with the goal of becoming an airline pilot in the next three years. He is pursuing instrument and commercial ratings. Cucci plans to complete his certificated flight instructor rating next year and ultimately restricted airline transport pilot certification when he graduates from college.

CAwingHow will having your private pilot certificate help you?
In CAP, I will fly as a visual flight rules pilot, pursue my high-performance rating, and achieve additional pilot ratings up to mission pilot. In my career, Cadet Wings allowed me to enter my aviation degree program a year ahead, therefore putting me closer to my goal of becoming a professional aviator. 

How important was the Ray Fellowship Scholarship you received for this program in achieving your private pilot certificate?
Maj. Trent Ferris (of the California Wing’s  Hemet-Ryan Composite Squadron) was my Ray navigator. He went out of his way to coordinate training times in conjunction with ferrying airplanes (at his own personal expense) so I could have a successful training experience. Also, the ability to train without the need to worry about finances CAsaddlewas instrumental in my success because it allowed me to focus on doing my best every flight. Without the financial assistance, I would not be where I am today as a pilot. 

Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets?
I highly recommend Cadet Wings to any cadet with a passion for aviation who is willing to put in the time and effort required to succeed in the program. If you are determined to succeed and represent CAP as a leader in the aviation community, Cadet Wings is for you. 

Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle?
​Preparing for my first solo flight was particularly difficult. Weather was a challenge, airplanes were down for maintenance, and instructors had commitments. To those in a similar situation, know that it will always work out if you continue to be ambitious, pursue new and exciting opportunities, and most of all, reach out to the great support system CAP has set up for student pilot success. 

There are always people in CAP who are willing to mentor and guide you on your journey with aviation … all you need to do is ask!​

Cadet 2nd Lt. Jonathan Hedges of the Georgia Wing’s Augusta Composite Squadron has a long-term goal of flying for a mission aviation organization. To do that, he plans to complete his two-year degree at Augusta Tech as an aircraft mechanic as well as continue to progress towards a commercial license.

What does earning your private pilot certificate through Cadet Wings mean to you?GAwing
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to get my certificate, but due to the high expense of doing so I was not able to. It wasn’t until I received the Cadet Wings scholarship that I was able to start training and ultimately get my certificate.

How will it help you?
In CAP specifically, completing my training has taught me a lot about why it means to have resilience and motivation. In regard to my life and future career, attaining my certificate is the first and most important step in my goal of becoming a pilot for Christian missionsGAaugusta aviation.

How important was the Ray Foundation Scholarship you received?
My Ray navigator was Terry Pitts. If I did not receive the Cadet Wings scholarship my training would’ve been extended by many years, especially since I have just started college to become a certified aircraft mechanic.

What got you interested in joining CAP?
I’ve always wanted to fly and loved going to the Boshears Skyfest in Augusta. The Augusta Composite Squadron had a booth, at which I was able to get more information about Civil Air Patrol.

Cadet Airman 1st Class Maren Kenward of the Minnesota Wing’s Mankato Composite Squadron is studying and training at the University of North Dakota. She plans to become an airline pilot and to continue studying for other ratings, including airline transport pilot.

What did you discover about yourself while training to be a pilot?
I discovered that I had a lot to learn about my study habits and about good time management. I learned to plan well and stay organized.

MNwingHow did your flight instructor assist you during the program?
My instructor, Maj. Jo Ellen Peters, was the best. She assisted me by sharing her extensive knowledge of flying and instructing me in both the airplane and on the ground. Flying with such an experienced instructor was one of the greatest things that came from the Cadet Wings program. She supported me by being there for me and preparing me well for my check ride.

Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle? When I got stuck in studying spots or had a hard time staying motivated, I overcame these obstacles by knowing the end goal; knowing there was a private pilot certificate waiting to have my name on it. My biggest challenge when learning to fly was balancing the study time versus flying time and knowing the background behind the flight maneuvers.

MankatoI would tell others in a similar situation to keep pushing through their hard times and remember what their end goal is. Having your end goal and smaller goals planned out along the way is extremely useful. 

I loved my first solo. It was such an eye-opening part of my aviation career. During it I was a little bit freaked out, but so proud of my accomplishment. After it, I realized that I didn’t want to do anything else as a career besides being a pilot.

Cadet 1st Lt. Katie Perez of the Georgia Wing’s Cobb County Composite Squadron is continuing her flight training at Middle Georgia State University. She will start instrument flight ground school and work toward an airline transport pilot license.

How will having your private pilot certificate help you?
GAcobbHaving certificate has really put me ahead in college, in my career, and in my sense of responsibility. Instead of starting from scratch, I will be starting on instrument flight rules college classes, saving me time and money in the long run. Starting this young will allow me to build on my experience for the many years I will be flying. It’s also helped me build better habits by managing how I use my time and resources.

Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets?
I recommend Cadet Wings to any and every cadet who has a love for flight. This is an opportunity that is beyond special. Any cadet who is willing to put in a few extra hours and is serious about flying should definitely explore this option.

The Cadet Wings board is made of amazing people who only want to see cadets succeed. They go out of their way to make sure you have what you need. Cadet Wings has given me so many resources to excel as a pilot and achieve a goal I otherwise probably wouldn’t have without them.

Describe how you felt before, during, and after your first solo?
My first solo was back in 2021 at CAP’s Southwest Region Powered Flight Academy in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I felt super-focused before my solo. I knew if I started to feel nervous, I wasn’t going to be able to recover. During the flight I was still shaking, but it felt kind of natural. The landing was the most nerve-racking part, and my nerves got the best of me toward the end. Once I jumped out of the plane, I felt great. Best feeling in the whole world.

Anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy your journey and be open-minded. It may be the opportunity you least expect to be your greatest one.

horizontal-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 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.