Three Interior high school students chosen for Flight Training

Published: Sep. 9, 2023 at 1:29 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Three students at Ben Eielson Senior High School got the chance of a lifetime this summer; a scholarship to train as a pilot.

According to senior Christopher McGoffin, one of the recipients, “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot. My dad’s a pilot. It’s just sort of something that we grew up around and always wanted to do.”

His brother Casey McGoffin, also a senior, said he likes “the control and freedom of flying. I’m at the controls. I know what I’m doing.”

The third recipient, senior Gino LaRocca, explained, “I’ve grown up around air force bases, moved base to base my whole childhood, constantly being around jets.”

The three were selected for scholarships as part of an Flight Academy program for students who are members of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Their adviser, Senior Master Sgt. Kathryn Manning, Adviser, explained, “It’s a really big boost and leg up for them in their future plans, and I think it’s just a real awesome accomplishment for them as well.”

The three boys road to pilot training began when they applied back in November of 2022.

“You have to take a test. It’s called the AQT, the Aviation Qualification Test, and whatever score you get, you send that in with some endorsements with Sergeant Manning and our counselor gave us endorsements. Those weigh heavily into the selection process,” said Casey McGoffin.

Once accepted, they had to undergo a physical evaluation before actually attending their courses this summer.

LaRocca described the process, saying, “You need to go see an FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]-licensed physician, and they basically just see if you’re fit to fly, that nothing would go wrong.”

The Flight Academy program partners with certification courses at 22 universities across the U.S. “The universities that we’ve partnered with have grown. They actually got more universities on board this year, which opened up more opportunities for these cadets,” said Manning.

Each cadet from Eielson attended a different school.

LaRocca called the training “probably one of the best experiences of my life. During, it was mentally tolling, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Meanwhile, Christopher McGoffin said in his class, “We had four hours of ground school in the morning, and then after lunch, we had four hours of flying, until ground school stopped.”

Training lasted seven to eight weeks, depending on the university. “We did the entire ground school portion in about three weeks, which is something that people usually take about six months of a college class to do,” Christopher McGoffin added.

This was not the case for Casey McGoffin, who clarified, “My ground lasted four to five weeks instead of his three.”

With a successful graduation, these young pilots now have their private pilot’s license. Their future is open to different possibilities.

Christopher McGoffin said, “I want to go to college. I want to commission in the air force as an officer.” This, he added, could be followed by becoming a commercial airline pilot.

LaRocca, meanwhile, said, “Using this private pilot’s license, hopefully I’m ahead of the game, compared to others.”

Finally, Casey McGoffin wants to pursue a “commission in the air force, become a pilot, preferably an F-15 pilot.”