Some of the most enjoyable training you will receive at the United States Air Force Academy is in aviation and airmanship. Aviation and airmanship courses will familiarize you with important activities in the Air Force, and not only introduce you to various aviation programs but possibly inspire you to pursue a career in aviation.
Flying is a large part of United States Air Force Academy experience. 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’ll be exposed to air power via multiple flyovers of America’s top-line aircraft. After BCT, your training continues with instruction in the concepts of flight, navigation and operations. Additionally, most fourth-class cadets will get their first exposure to airmanship during Introduction to Soaring, which includes four glider flights culminating in the opportunity for basic aerobatics.
Approximately 50 percent of cadets are enrolled in a soaring course during their third-class year. This is where you’ll pilot a sailplane and have the chance to solo. You’ll 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’ll even have the chance to become an instructor in various aviation and airmanship programs. Cadets who desire may take the powered flight course during their first-class year, in which they learn to fly and solo a propeller driven aircraft. Altogether, aviation and airmanship courses will familiarize you with important activities in the Air Force and will possibly introduce you to a satisfying career in aviation.
The Academy’s aviation programs give cadets the opportunity to fly in both powered and unpowered aircraft, learn advanced parachuting skills and compete against students from colleges around the world.
During the fourth-class year, you’ll 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 T-6 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.
Airmanship Soaring Programs
During your fourth-class academic year, the majority of your classmates will participate in the Introduction to Soaring Program, which includes four glider flights and the opportunity for aerobatic flight. Additionally, during the summer before your third-class year, you can enroll in Basic Soaring, which consists of 14 glider sorties with the opportunity for solo flight (depending on proficiency). Graduates of Basic Soaring are eligible to apply to become Cadet Soaring Instructor Pilots (IP). Those selected complete a year-long upgrade program during the third-class academic year, earning your G-Wings and becoming the “Youngest IPs in the Air Force”. Cadet IPs conduct 95% of all glider flight instruction and hone invaluable instructor and leadership skills in a flight-line environment.
Cadet volunteers who meet stringent physical requirements may enroll in the basic freefall parachute program, normally during the summer after your fourth-class year. Completing five freefall jumps earns you the Air Force basic parachute wings. Cadets from the basic freefall course may then be selected as parachute/jumpmaster trainees during your sophomore year. Graduates of this course become official members of the Air Force Parachute Team, “The Wings of Blue”, and serve as the primary instructors for the basic freefall course. Juniors and Seniors also participate in advance skydiving activities including international demonstrations at airshows and other venues, as well as individual and team competitions at the collegiate and national level.
Powered Flight Program (PFP)
Cadets who are interested have the opportunity to participate in the Academy’s Powered Flight Program. Using T-53s, military instructors provide a basic introduction to Air Force pilot training and the experience of powered flight. Based on proficiency, approximately 50% of these students will solo. The training includes ground and flight instruction under an Air Education and Training Command (AETC) flying syllabus.
The Academy has an Aero Club where you can learn to fly club-owned aircraft during your free time. You may also join the Cadet Aviation Club.Members of this club are interested in general aviation and meet regularly to discuss and organize various club activities. As a member of the Aero Club or the Aviation Club, you receive discounts and privileges on certain aviation activities, including the chance to earn FAA ratings.
Cadets at the Academy who demonstrate high levels of ability in airmanship programs can compete at the intercollegiate level. Cadet soaring instructors compete in regional and national cross-country soaring and aerobatic events as members of the Sailplane Racing Team and the Aerobatic Demonstration 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.
94th Flying Training Squadron
The 94th Flying Training Squadron provides unrivaled soaring and leadership opportunities. These opportunities include Basic Soaring, which provides some cadets their first experience to solo an aircraft, and Instructor Upgrade, which allows a select number of cadets the opportunity to learn how to become soaring instructor pilots.
Finally, the unit has two advanced sailplane teams that compete at intercollegiate and national levels in Aerobatics and Cross County tasks. These teams will also travel to a number of airshows and sporting venues across the U.S. for static display or aerial demonstrations. The program is the largest glider operation in North America with over 15,000 soaring flights flown annually.
98th Flying Training Squadron
The 98th Flying Training Squadron provides the opportunity to experience flight in its purest form falling towards the earth at 120 MPH. These opportunities include:
- Basic Parachuting, which involves training cadets in the fundamentals of skydiving and allowing them to accomplish five solo freefalls
- Wings of Green, which allows a select number of cadets the opportunity to learn advanced freefall parachuting, how to pack their parachute, become qualified jumpmasters and become instructors for the Basic Parachuting course as members of the Wings of Blue.
- Wings of Blue, which is comprised of 50 elite parachutists that compete in skydiving competitions around the country, including the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships where they have dominated the awards for the past 31 of 39 years. They also perform demonstrations at dozens of events around the country, at airshows and professional sporting events.
557th Flying Training Squadron
The 557th Flying Training Squadron provides exposure to an operational Air Force flying squadron through the Powered Flight Program and gives an opportunity to solo a light, general aviation aircraft.
Additionally, the USAFA Flying Team cadets develop and hone their leadership skills through national competition in light aircraft, competing in both flying and knowledge events. The team competes annually against 75 colleges and universities nationwide and has won its regional competition since 1987.
306th Flying Training Group
The mission of the 306th Flying Training Group is to “Develop the character, Education and Leadership of tomorrow’s Airmen through Airmanship programs in powered flight, soaring and parachuting.”
This group accomplishes this mission by providing the opportunity to participate as both students and instructors in various airmanship programs. These programs expose cadets to military aviation while helping motivate them toward a career in the United States Air Force.
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