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Academy cadets soar through summer

Maj. Chris Heiserman, the 94th Flying Training Squadron’s director of staff, and Air Force Academy Cadets 1st Class Garrett Dean and Sean Bedwell, conduct final flight checks on a glider.

(From left) Maj. Chris Heiserman, the 94th Flying Training Squadron’s director of staff, and Air Force Academy Cadets 1st Class Garrett Dean and Sean Bedwell, conduct final flight checks before Bedwell makes a sortie in the glider to land at Stillman Parade Field, Aug. 3, 2021. Newly-commissioned second lieutenants waiting to report to their first duty assignment or training school often spend time at the 306th Flying Training Group's airfield to maintain proficiency or complete glider or powered-flight certifications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Seth Stang)

Second Lt. Spencer Brown, a 2021 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Capt. Brandon Leet, assigned to the 306th Flying Training Squadron, watch as their glider is hook to a tow plane.

(From left) Second Lt. Spencer Brown, a 2021 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Capt. Brandon Leet, assigned to the 306th Flying Training Squadron, watch as their glider is hooked to a tow plane, Aug. 3, 2021. Newly-commissioned second lieutenants waiting to report to their first duty assignment or training school often spend time at the 306th Flying Training Group's airfield to maintain proficiency or complete glider or powered-flight certifications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Seth Stang)

Capt. Brandon Leet, assigned to the 306th Flying Training Squadron, Second Lieutenants Eric Clingenpeel, DJ Alexander and Elizabeth Shaffer, 2021 graduates of the Air Force Academy, complete safety checks on a glider.

(From left) Capt. Brandon Leet, assigned to the 306th Flying Training Squadron, Second Lieutenants Eric Clingenpeel, DJ Alexander and Elizabeth Shaffer, 2021 graduates of the Air Force Academy, complete safety checks on a glider, Aug. 3, 2021. Newly-commissioned second lieutenants waiting to report to their first duty assignment or training school often spend time at the 306th Flying Training Group's airfield to maintain proficiency or complete glider or powered-flight certifications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Seth Stang)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – --

The 306th Flying Training Group operates one of the Defense Department’s top 10 busiest runways where more than 120 aircraft gain altitude above the Air Force Academy each day.

Single-engine aircraft, planes ferrying cadet parachutists, tow-planes and gliders piloted by cadets in Air Education and Training Command’s Airmanship 461 course – glider-instructor pilot upgrade – fly 6 a.m-6 p.m. everyday.

“Cadet instructor-pilots are passionate about their jobs and have a professional, positive and tight-knit culture,” said Capt. Lillian Pryor, who manages the course at the 94th Flying Training Squadron, attached to the 306th FTG.

Cadets enroll in the basic soaring course each summer before their sophomore year, take 14 glider flights as passengers and get a chance to soar solo.

“Most cadets in the basic course have never flown an aircraft before,” Pryor said.

Cadet 1st class John Evans began the basic soaring course as a sophomore with little confidence but said that quickly changed.

“My instructor was 100% confident I was ready to solo,” he said. “After I completed the flight, my confidence level in the glider drastically increased.”

Cadets who graduate the Airmanship 461 course, like Evans, become instructor pilots and teach their classmates.

“The rigorous training we go through in the soaring program gives students the confidence to fly and accomplish anything they put their mind to,” Evans said.

Instructor pilots typically enroll in the soaring program during three summer academic periods while basic soaring students fly for one academic period. Pryor said the basic course has inspired cadets to pursue a career as a pilot.

The 306th Flying Training Group is a subordinate unit of Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio Randolph, Texas, responsible for developing training programs for all Airmen, including pilots.