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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 they 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 Pilot Training (SUPT) after graduation. A very large part of the Academy’s military education program involves flying. As early as Basic Cadet Training (BCT), you will be exposed to airpower 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 on the concepts of flight, navigation and operations.

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. 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 percent of cadets are enrolled in a soaring course during their third-class year, where they will pilot a sailplane, have the chance to earn cadet flight wings and potentially solo and earn their cadet solo wings. You will also have the opportunity to take an elective course in free-fall parachuting, complete five free-fall 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 first- or second-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. In addition, cadet volunteers have the opportunity to participate in the newest airmanship program, Unmanned Aerial Systems-Remotely Piloted Aircraft (UAS-RPA).

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. Upper-class cadets can compete for selection to Soaring Instructor Pilot Training. Some selected upper-class cadets who have completed advanced flying programs may earn a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate through the rating of a 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. 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. Additionally, selected cadets may become members of various competition flying teams. Cadets who demonstrate high levels of ability in airmanship programs can compete at the intercollegiate level. These teams also conduct demonstrations at public events at the Academy and throughout the nation.