The Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy concluded its 2022 program, graduating 251 new pilots at 24 partner universities and colleges across the country. Over the summer, 310 cadets from Junior ROTC, Air Force ROTC, U.S. Air Force Academy, Civil Air Patrol, and Air Force Recruiting Service-Detachment 1 have taken to the skies in single-engine aircraft and logged over 15,000 flying hours toward their Private Pilot Certifications.
The cadets worked closely with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified flight instructors to practice takeoffs and landings, cross-country solo flights, emergency procedures, and radio communication protocols with airfield personnel and dissimilar aircraft. Flight Academy cadets received a Private Pilot License (PPL) upon successful completion of the ground school, a solo flight, and the FAA written exam. They also earn three to six hours of college credit, depending on the university,
The AFJROTC Flight Academy is an eight-week summer aviation training program, hosted at some of the top aviation universities across the country. This scholarship program is a U.S. Air Force Rated Diversity and Inclusion (RDI) initiative intended to inspire and encourage high school youth toward aviation careers in the military or private industry. Since its inception in 2017, 52% of all Flight Academy participants have been from underrepresented groups (URG) and the program holds an 80% graduation rate, far exceeding the national average of 20% for similar programs.
“The Flight Academy is now in the fifth year of execution, and I believe achieving the original goals of returning the luster of aviation to our nation’s youth and positively impacting aviation diversity,” said Scott Lewis, Air Force JROTC Deputy Director. “The number of URG participants and the completion rate of over 80% speak volumes about the success of the program. The entire team is proud of how far the Flight Academy has come but they will not rest knowing there is so much more to do.”
Captain Al Spain, a retired Army Aviator and Professor at University of Nebraska at Kearney stated, "The PPL program broadens the cadet's understanding of aviation and its impact on global affairs. They gain an understanding of the components and requirements of the entire aviation field as well as the study and effort required if they choose to go farther in an aeronautical career field. For those cadets leaning toward an aviation career, this is a huge jumpstart for their careers."
The Flight Academy program is also helping universities strengthen and develop their own aviation programs. This year, the University of West Florida (UWF) in Pensacola was a first-year partner with Flight Academy. The university’s College of Business provided an on-campus experience for 10 young aviators while simultaneously reaping the benefits of hosting this program.
“The AFJROTC Flight Academy is actually jumpstarting UWF aviation degree programs,” said Dr. William Huth, a flight instructor and Distinguished University Professor at UWF. The UWF curriculum is starting three new aviation Bachelor of Science degree programs which include Aviation Management: Flight, Aviation Management: Ground, and Aviation Management: UAV/UAS.
“[The cadets’] excitement was contagious and it took me back to my own first solo in 1968,” Huth added. “It was especially rewarding to see our two youngest female cadets experience the joy of flight and to know that a rewarding career path was opening for them both.”
While there is no military service commitment or obligation associated with program completion, more than 46% of eligible Flight Academy graduates have pursued a military career through a service academy, ROTC program, or enlistment.
“This program will help improve the pipeline of pilots and will also introduce aviation to a more diverse population,” said Dr. Joe Childs, Director of Aviation at Indiana Wesleyan University, and third-year partner of the Flight Academy.
For more information about the Flight Academy program, visit https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Holm-Center/AFJROTC/Display/Article/3154508/flight-academy/