Armed with a team of volunteers, one of eight Civil Air Patrol (CAP) U.S. Air Force Auxiliary cadet academies in the nation has been underway at Shawnee Regional Airport this week. The training event, which typically lasts about 10 days, is wrapping up today with a recognition celebration for its honored students.

Armed with a team of volunteers, one of eight Civil Air Patrol (CAP) U.S. Air Force Auxiliary cadet academies in the nation has been underway at Shawnee Regional Airport this week. The training event, which typically lasts about 10 days, is wrapping up today with a recognition celebration for its honored students.

Local squadron commander Robin Rowden said trainees came from several states to take part in the flight camp.

“We have people here from New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Nevada, Washington D.C., Florida and several from Oklahoma,” she said.

By Friday, close to 15 trainees had already achieved their first solo flight, with room for a few more by the program's end today, Rowden said.

We're not a solo academy; that's not the goal, but it is often their hope, she said.

“When they do solo here, we hope that it's a good enough background for them to go back to their units and continue with their training,” she said.

The academy is not an easy one to get into. From a pool of applicants across the country, CAP National Headquarters whittles the number of applicants down significantly.

“Out of all eight academies, Shawnee is ranked No. 2 on the list beside choice for people to get into,” Rowden said.

There were initially 194 who applied for the Shawnee site's academy, she said.

“By the time national headquarters got through the slotting process, I had 129,” she said. “I still had 70+ sitting on the alternate list because there was only room for 20.”

Using 13 CAP aircraft for the program, cadets have undergone hours of flight training, as well as classroom instruction.

“(The training) gets to a point that if they have their credentials coming in and are eligible (through pilot assessment), they are allowed to attempt a solo flight,” she said.

This year, the group of students who made the cut are between 16 and 19 years old, Rowden, of Shawnee, said.

“Between support staff and students, we have about 45 participants,” she said.

She said at the camp there are 11 pilots freely lending their time and experience to the youth, as well as 13 support staff members.

She said the program is a positive step toward boosting the aviation field.

“There's such a massive shortage of pilots,” Rowden said.

All of the instructors volunteer their time and students aren't charged for it, Rowden said.

“The kids basically pay a fee to attend, and it almost covers room-and-board or for aircraft fuel and maintenance,” she said. “The rest of the cost comes out of the national budget from headquarters in Maxwell AFB in Alabama.”

She said many of the Oklahoma students are eligible for scholarships, due to a fund of contributions meant only for use in the state.

The CAP program has been coming to Oklahoma for about 13 years, Rowden said — the past 11 of them in Shawnee.

Flights focus on basic maneuvers, aircraft instruments, weather, etc. During CAP orientation flights, a detailed syllabus guides the pilot, the website, gocivilairpatrol.com, states.

During routine cadet orientation flights and with few exceptions, most cadets will fly in a CAP-owned single-engine Cessna, or a glider.

“Having them here is terrific,” Airport Manager Bonnie Wilson said. “These kids are focused, polite and on-the-ball.”

Rowden said though Shawnee's academy is based on powered-training (flying a motorized plane), also this week another academy in Seminole is hosting 10 students going through glider training, as well as having about a dozen volunteers to staff the event. Their students can be as young as 14, she said.

She said the glider program is new to Oklahoma.