This summer while most will be flying in a plane to get to their vacation destination, cadets, juniors Merrick Seeley and Braden Sweeten will be learning to fly a plane. They are two of the 120 recipients of the Flight Academy Private Pilot Scholarship Program offered around the world. For the first time, the United States Air Force gave AFJROTC cadets the chance to get them their private pilot’s license by attending an aviation program at one of the six universities that have partnered with the scholarship. The Air Force is hoping to address the problem of their aviation pilot shortage through this scholarship opportunity.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with something this big I don’t think I’m fully able to wrap my head around it or how cool it’s going to be,” Sweeten said.
In order to be considered for the scholarship both cadets had to take the the Aviation Qualifying Test, a standardized test that is a portion of the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test which determines mathematical and verbal capabilities for cadets at the college level.
“It had lots of knowledge on there and some of the hardest math questions I’ve ever seen,” Seeley said. “To prepare, we studied just about everyday of Thanksgiving break and go to each other’s houses.”
The studying paid off and at the cadet’s assembly Seeley and Sweeten were announced as two of the winners of the scholarship.
“I think it’s exciting for the two kids they did practice tests, researched about flying, and had about three months to prepare,” Lt Col Robert C. West Jr., (Ret), USAF Senior Aerospace Science Instructor said. “It was hard for them, there’s only a certain amount of time to do a certain amount of questions, but rightly so they were selected so they had to do good on the test.”
This experience is not only about the thrill of flying a plane for these cadets it is a step toward the careers they want to pursue. Over the next couple of weeks the cadets will find out what university they will be training at during the summer. Sweeten is contemplating going into the commercial industry or joining the United States Air Force, while Seeley wants to get accepted into the United States Air Force Academy.
“I want to fly fighter planes, those are the ones that get the bad guys and have really intense missions,” Seeley said. “I’ve always wanted to do this since a really young age.”
Together the cadets have gotten through the process of applying for the scholarship and meeting the qualifications for it which earned them the chance to fly.
“I think that the sense of friendship, working together, cooperation was one of the things that helped us get the scholarship,” Sweeten said. “We helped each other grow and learn and progress.”