By Christian P. Hodge, HQ AFJROTC Public Affairs
/ Published November 02, 2020
Cadet James Huang, North Gwinnett High School, Suwanee, Georgia, sits in the cockpit of a trainer aircraft at Auburn University, Alabama, in summer 2018. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force Flight Academy scholarship program allows selected Air Force Junior ROTC cadets to attend an accredited aviation program at one of six partnering universities to get a private pilot license. Despite being shut down in summer 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFJROTC is now accepting applications to the Flight Academy for summer 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew Markivee)
The Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Flight Academy is once again accepting application packages from exceptional student-citizens across the country who want to earn their wings in 2021.
The COVID-19 coronavirus forced Headquarters AFJROTC to shut down the Flight Academy for 2020. However, AFJROTC high school cadets who will be 17 by July 9, 2021, and are interested in earning a Private Pilot’s Certification are encouraged to apply by Nov. 25.
Despite the pandemic, the AFJROTC Flight Academy is looking for this to be the largest class ever with the future of the program being very bright, according to the civilian overseeing AFJROTC’s Flight and Cyber academies.
“The AFJROTC Flight Academy continues to receive glowing endorsements and increased support within the Air Force,” said Todd Taylor, HQ AFJROTC Program Development Division chief. “Although there is no requirement for our cadets to join the Air Force, many are exploring this option through ROTC or the Academy for the excellent aerospace career opportunities and great family environments.”
In its fourth year, the AFJROTC Flight Academy formed to help address the ongoing and foreseeable pilot shortage by getting young people excited about aviation while also increasing aviation diversity.
The Flight Academy, in essence, allows aspiring young aviators to get their Private Pilot’s Certification at no cost during an eight-week summer course at partner universities. This incurs no military commitment while providing a college transcript and only requires that the attendees be exceptional cadets and agree to take part in an annual aviation-related survey for five years.
“The Flight Academy is not built around orientation programs or getting students to solo, but rather it’s designed to get students to licensing and certification,” said Taylor. “It takes place on a university campus designed to graduate college aerospace professionals where cadets are immersed in an aviation environment and an entire collegiate program designed to get them excited about aviation.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 80 percent of students who start flight training do not continue past their solo flight. This AFJROTC program is designed to get students past this historical roadblock while creating the experience of a lifetime.
“My experience with the Flight Academy was amazing!” said Zhamarius Harmon, a recent Oklahoma City AFJROTC Detachment OK-20131 and Putnam City High School cadet and graduate. “I went to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, for two months in the summer, and they had an amazing staff put together for the eight cadets that got chosen to go there.”
Harmon believes that it was one of the best schools to go to for flight training and feels very lucky to have been selected for the program.
“Flight Academy 2019 will never be forgotten,” he said.
As an Air Force-funded private pilot’s scholarship, the program is competitively boarded during the selection process. This ensures a quality investment by ensuring extraordinary young men and women like Harmon are selected.
“I joined AFJROTC because I wanted to get involved in something else for high school and ended up falling in love with the corps because it gave me opportunities to be a leader,” said Harmon. “I moved from element leader my freshman year all the way up to squadron commander by the beginning of my junior year.”
Despite COVID-19 “ruining the end of my senior year,” Harmon was the detachment’s chief pilot in charge of the drones and securing aerial footage.
COVID-19’s impact on the nation’s communities and university campuses resulted in cancelation of the 2020 Flight Academy, and the impacts are still being felt today. However, planning continues for summer 2021 and they hope it is going to be the best year yet.
“AFJROTC is the Air Force’s most diverse organization and its largest youth education and outreach program,” said Taylor. “And the Flight Academy is just a winning formula.”
He continued, “We immerse students onto college campuses, surround them with likeminded peers, educators and mentors, connect them with pilots and put them in airplanes, and then offer them college credit, certification and a possible career pathway to reach their objectives. All with no cost, to include travel and lodging, or military commitment. What could be better than that?”
For more information on the AFJROTC Flight Academy go to: https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/HolmCenter/AFJROTC/Flight-Academy/