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Alaska Civil Air Patrol trains cadets to fly gliders and airplanes during annual academy

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:05 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets from around the country are in Alaska to take part in glider and powered flight academies. There are 18 cadets flying in the glider academy and 10 in the powered, plus 15 adults volunteering to help with the training. The Alaska Civil Air Patrol has been holding annual glider academies for years and recently started a powered flight academy as well.

Cadets for the glider academy need to be at least 14 years old to participate and get to take 30 flights in the gliders and have the opportunity to receive their solo glider rating at the end of the academy.

Jim McCarthy is a glider instructor for CAP and said that he enjoys teaching the cadets, “It is just super satisfying to see the change in their demeanor.”

Luck Schmitt is a first lieutenant with CAP and said that when he first started he was very shy and introverted but the program has taught him social skills.

“Personal interaction skills for sure have increased a lot and ability to lead and supervise a group of cadet and I am confident in doing all of those things,” Schmitt said. It also taught him how to fly. He said without CAP he may not have been able to get his flight training because the cost is often prohibitive.

The cadets can solo a glider at 14 and are able to stay with the program through high school. When cadets aren’t in one of the three gliders flying, they are on the ground helping move gliders when they land and get them ready for take off.

Siggy Mellerstig is a cadet who is just learning to fly.

“I just did my first couple of glider landings. So I was able to do a pattern tow, where we fly up to pattern altitude and then just execute the turns required to exit the landing,” Mellerstig said.

He said he was in control of the aircraft and the instructor give him directions. McCarthy said that being able to learn to fly a glider helps the cadets to be able to fly powered aircraft.

“It’s a great precursor before going powered. You learn a lot flying gliders,” McCarthy said.

10 older cadets were at a runway in Nenana practicing flying Cessna 172′s. The powered academy gives cadets 10 hours of flight time and the chance to solo an airplane.

“We’re actually giving them introductory flight, they get up to 10 hours of flight time towards their private pilot [license],” said instructor pilot Brett Kollar.

Regan Hess is a cadet colonel from Missouri and came to Alaska for the flight training.

“I am really working on trying to get my privates pilots license, so my goal for this week is really to be able to land and solo hopefully by the end of the week. But if I can’t solo, to be able to land without having to have everyone’s help all the time,” Hess said.

The programs do cost money but scholarships are available. Cadets like Schmitt said he is grateful for the Civil Air Patrol and the opportunities they afford.

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