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Cadet Airmanship Programs

A sailplane towed by a T-41 Mescalero soars above Colorado Springs in the direction of Pikes Peak. The U.S. Air Force Academy's soaring program gives cadets their first hands-on experience with flying aircraft. The 94th Flying Training Squadron conducts the training, flying more than 30,000 sorties per year. (U.S. Air Force photo/David Armer)

A Piper Super Cub PA-18 tows a sailplane above Colorado Springs toward Pikes Peak. The U.S. Air Force Academy's soaring program gives most cadets their first experience piloting an aircraft. The 94th Flying Training Squadron at the Academy conducts more than 30,000 sorties each year. (U.S. Air Force photo/David Armer)

The Air Force Academy offers a variety of flying programs under the direction of Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in coordination with the Academy's commandant of cadets. These programs are a vital to each cadet's course of study as they provide a series of flying and parachuting experiences which integrate key aspects of Air Force aviation heritage and modern Air Force flying operations with other elements of the cadet's total education.

Airmanship division programs are embodied in 19 courses offering basic and advanced instruction in gliders, powered flight and parachuting. 

These program are consistently rated No. 1 in preparing graduates for flying and non-flying duties. For officers in non-flying career fields, these programs may be their only direct contact with an operational flying environment. Providing cadets an opportunity to experience flying enhances the effectiveness of academic and aeronautical-related course work. 

By developing courage, character, discipline and enhancing aviation knowledge, the Airmanship Programs form a vital part of the Air Force Academy curriculum and distinguish the Academy from other institutes of higher learning.


The Academy Soaring Program allows most cadets to receive their first experience in a flying environment. The 94th Flying Training Squadron manages all training associated with the program, including basic soaring, 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 U.S. Sailplane training is designed as a leadership and motivational experience. These aspects are enhanced by the fact that 95 percent of the sailplane training is conducted by cadet instructor pilots.

Basic soaring training includes instruction in the DG Flugzeugbau TG-16A glider aircraft. A cadet may qualify to fly solo after approximately 10-15 flights, depending on their proficiency. The basic soaring course trains approximately 600 sophomore cadets annually. Additionally, approximately 70 cadets are chosen each year to enter a semester-long instructor pilot upgrade course. Cadets earn the coveted "G-wings" and become qualified instructor pilots in the TG-10B when they graduate the upgrade course. 

For cadet instructor pilots who excel, advanced soaring courses offer the opportunity to train in the TG-16A (aerobatics) aircraft or in the Shempp-Hirth TG-15A (cross-country) aircraft. Advanced soaring cadets routinely compete in regional and national aerobatic and cross-country competitions.

The Academy sailplane fleet consists of 18 TG-16A glider aircraft, two Shempp-Hirth TG-15A aircraft and three Shemp-Hirth TG-15B aircraft. 


Cadet parachuting at the Academy began in 1963 when cadets formed a recreational club. The basic Academy course evolved from that original club into today's program. The objectives of the parachute program are to train cadets in basic free-fall parachuting, represent the Academy at competitions and demonstrations, and provide a leadership laboratory and motivational experience for cadets.

The 98th Flying Training Squadron handles all training and flying associated with the parachuting program. The program builds character and leadership; when cadets step out of an aircraft at an altitude of 4,500 feet, they must trust their equipment and training and more importantly, their self-discipline to put them safely in the drop zone. Academy graduates consistently rate the parachute program as one which cultivates character and discipline, key characteristics to their success in the operational Air Force.

Four parachute programs exist in the cadet Airmanship program: basic, advanced, instructor and-or jump master training, and instructor and-or jump master duty courses during which more than 20,000 jumps are made each year. The basic course trains about 700 cadets annually. The final course gives military training credit to cadets who are instructors for the other three programs. 

Cadets play a major role in training and safety. For example, virtually all cadet jumps are controlled by cadet jump masters. These duties provide practical leadership experience with a large amount of responsibility. This responsibility includes ground training, equipment fitting, pre-flight inspection, aircraft loading, and all pre-jump actions to include emergency procedures and safe and orderly egress from the aircraft.

Airlift support for cadet parachuting is provided by three UV-18B aircraft. The UV-18B is a DeHavilland DHC-6 ot "Twin Otter." It carries a pilot, copilot and a maximum 17 jumpers. The aircraft has crew and passenger oxygen systems and a navigation-communication package giving it an all-weather capability. The "Twin Otter" has a cruising speed of 150 knots, a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and a range of 700 miles. These three "Twin Otters" are the UV-18B aircraft owned by the Air Force.


The Academy Flying Team is a select group of 16-18 cadets who hold a Federal Aviation Administration private pilot certificate or higher. The team uses three instrument-equipped 150-horsepower Cessna 150 aircraft to compete against 144 colleges nationwide in regional and national competitions. 

Cadets fly approximately 75-100 hours per year and compete in nine demanding ground and precision flying events, including aircraft identification, flight computer accuracy, short field landings and cross-country navigation. During the summer, officer instructor pilots train new team members in the team's aircraft and competition events. Each spring, the team deploys for a week of intensive flying training prior to the National Flying Competition.


The Aero Club allows cadets to pursue civilian ratings at a reduced cost. Cadets must pay aircraft rental fees and instructional costs but are partially reimbursed by Academy services funds. Visit www.usafaservices.com/hobbies--skills/aero-club for more information.  

(Current as of September 2018)