Soaring Program at USAFA Airfield

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COLORADO SPRINGS – Aviation and work in flying related fields await about two-thirds of the Air Force Academy’s graduating class each year.

FOX21’s Meteorologist Matt Meister had the opportunity to spend some time on the flight line.

Gliders, motorless aircraft serve as the introduction to Air Force Aviation for cadets, that’s also run by cadets.

“The first time I was up there the quietness of it got to me. I was like, wow, you can hear the wind going by you and it’s really quiet and serene,” Senior Braden Smith said. “being able to see where you go to classes it’s like wow! This is so much better being up here in the air than being stuck in a classroom.”

Cadets instruct cadets with the goal of not only making them better aviators but better officers in the Air Force graduation.

“The orange vest designates me as the marshaller so essentially I’m in charge of the west runway, which is the runway we are on right now,” Smith explained. “My two main goals are safety, right. I don’t want anyone to get hit by a sailplane or a tow plane. but, also, I want to try and get as many sorties up into the air as possible.”

Instructor pilots are selected after an extensive interview process and are committed to doing a lot of extra work too.

“People have a lot of different learning styles so you have to adapt your instruction based on your student’s learning style,” a cadet explained. “So that’s super helpful. At an organizational level, the cadets run the entire flight line out here. we learn how to be efficient. we learn how to work as a team to get as many sorties up as we can and to do it safely.”

The students take all of the regular classes and in addition, they have seven extra hours every other day of flight training but the guys say it’s well worth it.

“I started not knowing how to fly at all and one year later I’m flying students around, so it really boosts your confidence,” a cadet said. “Crew coordination, having someone else in the plane with you and having full trust in them that they have your back and you have theirs.”

Many times there are anywhere from eight to ten cadet instructor pilots and about 30 students. While there is more learning to do in the classroom before graduation for the soaring pilots their eyes are always in the sky.

“Flying over the academy, watching everyone march to lunch while you’re in the glider, it’s surprisingly quiet up there when you fly slowly,” Smith said. “The coolest thing I’ve seen is when I was up there and a couple of F-16s flew under me and I could hear them on the radios, that was pretty cool.”

With all of that inspiration, many cadets in the Soaring Program plan to be pilots after graduation.

“The goal is to fly. I’d love to go to grad school first, but we’re kind of waiting on that one but the end goal is to go to pilot training. I’d love to fly anything with a crew. I love the crew aspect of flying but I don’t want to be too picky about it.”

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