USAF JROTC Flight Academy Cadets Soar Again in 2021

Cadet James Huang of Suwanee, Georgia, in the cockpit of a trainer aircraft at Auburn University. USAF/ Matthew Markivee

After being shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) Flight Academy is once again accepting application packages from exceptional citizens across the country who want to earn their wings in 2021. AFJROTC high school cadets who will be 17 by July 9, 2021, and are interested in earning a private pilot certificate are encouraged to apply by November 25.

The Flight Academy allows aspiring young aviators to get their private pilot certificate at no cost during an eight-week summer course at partner universities. The cadets incur no military commitment while providing a college transcript, and the program only requires that the attendees be “exceptional cadets” and agree to take part in an annual aviation-related survey for five years.

“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. We immerse students onto college campuses, surround them with like-minded 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. Flight Academy is just a winning formula.”

The AFJROTC Flight Academy program creates camaraderie between the cadets as they complete flight training. Courtesy AFJROTC

Taylor explained that the Flight Academy is not built around orientation programs or getting students to solo; instead, it is designed to get students to licensing and certification. “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,” he said.

According to AFJROTC, the FAA states that 80 percent of students who start flight training do not continue past their solo flight. The AFJROTC scholarship program is designed to “get students past this historical roadblock while creating the experience of a lifetime.” Colonel Stephen T. Sanders, Director, Air Force Junior ROTC, explained that the program provides the high school-age cadets with a valuable true college experience. “The Flight Academy advances young people with the soft skills employers want such as integrity, service, and excellence, while simultaneously developing aviation hard skills by pushing these exceptional young men and women to persist, excel, and ultimately soar during a rigorous eight-week module. I strongly feel that students who earn their private pilot certificates through the Flight Academy will be more likely to reach their educational objectives, go to college and ultimately live more enriched lives,” Sanders said.

More camaraderie on display between cadets in the AFJROTC program. Courtesy AFJROTC

AFJROTC currently has 125,000 cadets enrolled in high schools across the nation. A long-term focus will be to continue building on the diversity of the scholarship program, which currently includes 58 percent minority and 40 percent female demographics. With a goal to grow the program annually, AFJROTC said the scholarship program has the annual potential to produce 1,160 new minority pilots each year and 800 potential female pilots.

Cadets currently enrolled in AFJROTC programs in their high schools while maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA may apply to the Flight Academy. Cadets must be in good standing in their unit, take an Air Force aviation aptitude test, provide instructor and school endorsements, and must have a strong interest in aviation and a “never-quit” attitude. Other factors in the selection process include life experiences, aviation experience, and passing the FAA first-class medical certificate. After being selected, the AFJROTC Flight Academy scholarship will cover the cadet’s total cost of room, board, tuition, books, and fees for this program, including transportation from the cadet’s unit to the nearest airport to their training university.

Current partnering universities are California Baptist University, Delaware State University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Memorial University, Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, Liberty University, Purdue University, Southeastern University, University of North Dakota, and Utah Valley State. More information on the AFJROTC Flight Academy scholarship program can be found here.

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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