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Aircraft of the Academy's airmanship programs
The Academy’s Twin Otter UV-18B is an airlift support plane for cadet parachuting and the Air Force Wings of Blue parachute team. The Air Force owns three. They can carry a pilot, copilot and up to 17 jumpers. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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In 'plane' sight: The aircraft of the Academy's airmanship program

Posted 12/17/2012   Updated 12/17/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

12/17/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- From dawn to dusk you can guarantee cadets will be cruising the sky in distinct, Academy aircraft.

Through the Academy's airmanship program, future officers, pilots and navigators are able to fly fixed-wing aircraft and gliders, clearly marked with an Air Force logo, 12-13 hours a day to experience their first aviation opportunity.

"It's necessary to fly during all available opportunities to provide training to as many cadets as possible," said Capt. Jocelyn Smith, 306th Operations Support Powered Flight Program Manager. "The goal is for every cadet who graduates from the Academy to have the opportunity to participate in an aviation program."

Lt. Col. Sean Gallagher, 306th Operations Support Squadron commander, said aviation activities occur during the hours of daylight, typically between 6:45 a.m.-8 p.m. He said August- May flight operations are also conducted on Saturday.

"Sometimes during the school year we will shut down around 6 p.m.," Gallagher said. "In the summer, you can expect the airfield to be open from 6:45 a.m. until sunset."

The Academy's powered aircraft are easy to recognize by the letters "USAF" marked on the top and underside of the wing, and marked with an Air Force Symbol on the top and bottom of the other, Gallagher said.

"If you see an unmarked aircraft, it doesn't belong to the Academy," Gallagher said. "Our aircraft are typically white and noticeable with its Air Force markings."

Gallagher said cadets are able to fly throughout most of Colorado Springs because much of the airspace is uncontrolled or public use. He said the Academy conducts practice landings at the Academy's airfield as well as at Fort Carson, Meadow Lake and Centennial Airport.

"We will fly in any airspace that is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration," Gallagher said. "If there are any restricted areas or temporary flight restrictions issued by the FAA, we won't fly there."

The program offers powered flight, jumping and soaring opportunities for cadets with designated planes for each mission.

One of the Academy's newest models is the Cirrus Aircraft T-53A, a small, single engine aircraft that replaced the fleet of Diamond DA-40 T-52s in the spring of 2012.

The T-53 is slightly larger than the T-52, and has a slightly higher horsepower engine, Smith said. The first T-53 arrived on station in June 2011, and the last two of 25 arrived in May of 2012.

The powered flight mission provides more than 600 cadets per year an introduction to flight and an opportunity for a solo flight, Gallagher said.

"We estimate that currently two-thirds of the cadets who graduate have taken part in an airmanship program," Smith said.

The 150-horsepower Cessna 150 T-51A is flown by the Academy flying team to compete in regional and national college competitions.

"Cadets fly approximately 75 to 100 hours per year," said Maj. Scott Inmon, 306th Operations Support powered flight program manager. "They compete in nine ground and precision flying events, such as aircraft identification, flight computer accuracy, short field landings and cross-country navigation."

The German TG-16A glider replaced the TG-10 glider in July, and is used for the Academy's Soaring Program. The trainer is non-powered and must be towed up to altitude by a yellow DOSS aviation Super Cub tow plane.

Inmon said the sailplane is designed to allow cadets to receive their first hands-on experience in a flying environment and includes training for basic soaring, an instructor pilot upgrade and advanced soaring.

"The squadron flies more than 30,000 sorties a year, making it the largest and most active soaring operation in the United States," Inmon said.

The goal of the Academy's airmanship program is to provide an aviation experience and to inspire cadets toward a career in the Air Force -- "Airmanship for All" -- Smith said.

Last week Maj. Scott Inmon took over Capt. Jocelyn Smith's position as 306th Operations Support powered flight program manager.

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