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

GAwingCadet Col. George Powell of the Georgia Wing’s Ellijay Composite Squadron is attending Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. Powell plans to maintain his flight proficiency with the California Wing’s Camarillo Composite Squadron 61.

When his career as a CAP cadet is finished, he plans to become an adult member to serve tomorrow’s aerospace leaders in orientation flights and squadron activities and to give back some of what he has been given.

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

Receiving the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Wings scholarship has been life-changing for me. I come from a family of pilots, and I have wanted to earn certificate for years. Reaching this valuable milestone will move me a step closer to my goals of becoming a CAP orientation pilot,EllijayComp flight instructor, and eventually a professional airline pilot.

In addition to allowing me to take great strides in my Civil Air Patrol journey and my career, learning to fly has been a wonderful experience and a highlight in my life.

How did your flight instructor assist you during the program?  What things did he do that supported your training? 

As in all aviation training, I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere without my flight instructor. Whether it be providing tips on landing or interesting technical details or simply bringing a smile to the lesson, my instructor was always there for any questions I had. I was also given excellent mentoring and guidance by Lt. Col. Albert Van Lengen (transportation officer for CAP’s Southeast Region) and the entire Cadet Wings team during my training.

Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle?

The chief challenge I faced on my journey to becoming a pilot is perseverance. It can be a challenge to establish one task as the focus for months at a time. Many times it required a great deal of self-discipline to keep going, to keep scheduling lessons when there is a temptation to take a break.

I would encourage others who are on this journey to avoid that temptation, as a delay in training does not provide any benefit in the long run and actually has the potential to increase training costs dramatically.

LAWG graphicCadet 2nd Lt. Wesley Felice, a member of the Louisiana Wing’s Lake Charles Composite Squadron, plans to make aviation a career. He hopes to eventually become a flight instructor and achieve an Airline Transport Pilot rating. Next on his list is to earn an instrument rating.

He was mentored by the Lake Charles squadron’s 2nd Lt. Michael Rougeau through the James C. Ray Foundation. Rougeau “was very supportive and assisted me in navigating throughout my pilot journey,” Felice said. “He gave me inspiration to press on when things got hard.”

How will earning your private pilot certificate help you in CAP and your future career?

It will help me in CAP to be able to teach other cadets about aviation. In my future career it will help me as the first stepping stone, LAlakechasbecause I plan to make aviation a career. In my personal life it will help me in numerous ways. As a pilot you learn to pay attention to detail, become a critical thinker, and learn to adapt mentally to tough situations.

Was there ever a time where you thought you weren’t going to make it? How did you overcome that obstacle?

There were a few times when I felt I wasn’t going to make it, mainly toward the end of my flight training. The obstacles I faced were primarily stress and executing some difficult maneuvers. I overcame those obstacles by practice, prayer, and hard work.

My biggest challenge about learning to fly was ignoring the stress inside of my own head. What I would tell aspiring aviators in a similar situation is to take a breath and let your fear and nervousness go “don’t think, just do.” 

CAwingCadet Chief Master Sgt. Samuel Low, a member of the California Wing’s Santa Cruz Composite Squadron 13, completed the Cadet Wings program through flight training at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He intends to someday fly for the airlines or a charter company or even become an air traffic controller.

After completing Cadet Wings, Low began instrument training. He plans to keep training to get an airline job by obtaining instrument and commercial ratings, multi-engine, and possibly becoming a flight instructor. He would also like to fly search and rescue missions for CAP.

What does earning your private pilot certificate mean to you?

CAscruzEarning my certificate through Cadet Wings represents a lifelong goal of becoming a pilot being accomplished, with the invaluable support of an organization that has changed my life since I joined in 2018. Civil Air Patrol has not only been able to help me achieve my dream of becoming a pilot, but it has also made me into a more mature, responsible, and well-rounded individual.

Would you recommend Cadet Wings to other cadets?

Absolutely. One of the most difficult challenges of flight training is the costs associated with it, and the ability to have the vast majority of these costs be covered by the generosity of Cadet Wings and the Youth Aviation Initiative by being an active member of Civil Air Patrol is something that should not be passed up. 

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

I learned that I tend to be successful so long as I slow down and take my time to be thorough, rather than rushing through checklists and procedures. Something else I realized is that taking care of myself and making sure I am eating, drinking, and sleeping properly significantly affects the way I perform, inside and outside of the cockpit.

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.