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Aviation FAQ

Do cadets earn Air Force flying ratings?

Cadets do not earn Air Force “pilot wings” at the Academy, but the can earn Air Force parachute wings. Cadets who complete several airmanship and navigation courses during their four years can gain sufficient flight experience, which serves as excellent preparation for Specialized Undergraduate Flight Training (SUPT) after graduation.

A very large part of the Commandant of Cadets’ military education program involves flying. Some of the most enjoyable training you will receive is in aviation and airmanship courses offered throughout your four years at the Academy. As early as Basic Cadet Training (BCT), you will be exposed to air power via multiple flyovers of America’s top-line aircraft. A few basic cadets will even make tandem parachute jumps. After BCT your training continues with instruction in the concepts of flight, navigation and operations.

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What flying and aviation courses are available?

During the fourth-class year, you will have an opportunity to participate in a voluntary aviation program called “Project Fledgling” that includes a classroom introduction to basic aviation principles, as well as flying time in T6 simulators. Elective aviation courses provide firsthand flight experience while furthering your knowledge and understanding of the flight environment. They teach flight concepts, basic and advanced aviation and instrument principles and procedures. The aviation courses offered are varied, ranging from a course on Air Force combat operations to courses designed to prepare graduates to excel at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT).

Additionally, selected cadets are offered an opportunity to serve as Cadet Aviation instructors, where they gain invaluable leadership experience both in the air and on the ground.

Approximately 50% of cadets are enrolled in a soaring course during their third-class year, where you will pilot a sailplane, have the chance to earn cadet flight wings and potentially solo and earn your cadet solo wings. You will also have the opportunity to take an elective course in freefall parachuting, complete five freefall parachute jumps and receive your Air Force parachute wings. You will even have the chance to become an instructor in various aviation and airmanship programs.

As a culminating aviation experience, cadets in their second or first-class year can take an elective introducing them to an operational USAF squadron and allowing them to fly and possibly solo a propeller driven aircraft. Altogether, aviation and airmanship courses will provide you with a wealth of leadership opportunities, familiarize you with important activities in the Air Force and will possibly introduce you to a satisfying career in aviation.

Airmanship Soaring Program: Nearly all third-class cadets receive instruction in flying a two-seat sailplane. Cadet instructor Pilots provide most ground and flight instruction. Students in the basic soaring course may apply for enrollment in an advanced course that trains cadets to become soaring flight instructors. In this and other advanced courses, you can experience many aspects of leadership while soaring.

Parachuting: Cadet volunteers who meet stringent physical requirements may enroll in the parachute program. Successfully completing five freefall jumps may earn you the Air Force parachutist badge. Selected cadets from the basic parachuting course may enroll in the parachute instructor course. Graduates of this course instruct others in the basic parachuting course and participate in advanced parachuting activities, to include demonstrations for the “Wings of Blue” and the Air Force Parachute Team.

Powered Flight Program (PFP): The Powered Flight Program is a capstone course that serves as a culmination of a cadet’s aviation education. Lessons in Air Force heritage and principles of engineering are applied in real-life scenarios during nine flights in a single engine propeller driven aircraft. Military instruction will introduce you to concepts of powered flight – based on proficiency; approximately 50% of these students will solo. The training includes ground and flight instruction using the T-53 (Cirrus SR-20) aircraft.

Unmanned Aerial Systems-Remotely Piloted Aircraft (UAS-RPA) Program: Cadet volunteers have the opportunity to participate in our newest airmanship program – the UAS-RPA program. Here, cadets get the exciting opportunity to participate in and experience the fastest growing mission in the Air Force. As with the soaring program, Air Force aviators supervise the program, but cadets run it. Cadet instructor pilots provide most ground and flight instruction. Cadets in the basic course may apply for enrollment in an advanced course that trains cadets to become UAS-RPA flight instructors. Select cadets may also participate in our unmanned systems demonstration and collegiate competition team.

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Are extracurricular flying courses available?

Yes. Cadets may participate in flying through extracurricular programs such as soaring, parachuting and the Cadet Aviation Club. Soaring and parachute training is held on a year-round basis and is available to every cadet. The basic soaring course includes dual and solo instruction involving approximately 10-14 flights. Upper-class cadets can compete for selection to Soaring Instructor Pilot Training. Once qualified, the cadet instructors, who are supervised by rated Air Force officers, instruct other cadets.

Some selected upper-class cadets who have completed advanced flying programs may earn a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate through the rating of flight instructor. All soaring is conducted in either Academy sailplanes or powered gliders. Parachute training is also available to selected cadets who volunteer and meet stringent physical requirements. The basic parachuting course involves five free-fall jumps.

Some selected cadets from the basic course will take advanced courses to become parachute instructors for other cadets. These instructors, known as jumpmasters, may become members of the Wings of Blue parachute team and may qualify for a U.S. Parachute Association rating. The Cadet Aviation Club is open to all cadets who are interested in pursuing flying as an extracurricular activity. As members of the club, cadets can earn FAA ratings from private Pilot through instructor Pilot. Also, selected cadets may become members of the Cadet Competition Flying team.

Cadets who demonstrate high levels of ability in airmanship programs can compete at the intercollegiate level. Select cadet soaring instructors compete in regional and national cross-country soaring and aerobatic events as member of the Sailplane Racing Team and the Aerobatic Glider Team. Cadet members of the Wings of Blue parachuting team compete in events throughout the country, culminating at the College National Parachuting Championships. Cadets on the Academy Flying Team also compete in regional and national level events. All of the teams are nationally recognized and perennially earn top honors. These teams also conduct demonstrations at public events at the Academy and throughout the nation.

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