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Learn to Fly

Tips for Aspiring Cadet Pilots

Do you have a passionate desire for aviation?  Were you born to fly airplanes and poke holes in the atmosphere?  If so, there’s no better way to skyrocket your level of Aerospace Education than taking advantage of one of the best benefits of cadet membership: relatively inexpensive flight instruction!  

Although you may know there are too few instructors to fill the need, this information may help you become more competitive to increase your chances of securing a Civil Air Patrol instructor for a course of Private Pilot flight training.  While you should research flight academies on the national website and the Cadet Wings Program with CAPP 60-43, the information below addresses flight instruction at the squadron level.  (Most links on this page will open new browser windows outside the CAP.GOV domain.)

THINGS YOU CAN DO to help entice an instructor to donate their valuable time and skills to train you.

  • Orientation Flights: Request your orientation flights!  Five free powered flights and five free glider flights are waiting for cadets under age 18.  Pay attention and learn.  Your potential instructor will be pleased that you have some flying experience under your belt.  Use this link to request an O Flight at North Hennepin Squadron.

  • Simulator: Invest time on a flight simulator program such as X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator.  The very best flight students have spent a hundreds of hours flying their home simulators which teach them a tremendous amount about flying before their first flight lesson.  Some instructors might require at least 25 hours of simulator flying at home before taking you on.  This shows a strong dedication to aviation and your pursuit of excellence.

    • There is a simulator located at the Viking Squadron and owned by Youth Aviation Foundation.  It is free for cadets and $20/hour for non-cadets.  Contact 1st Lt Caleb Gregory for scheduling which is usually done during the Viking Squadron meetings on Tuesday evenings 16:00-18:00.  Each cadet will be scheduled for 20 minutes.  You should wear your uniform of the day for our squadron meeting that follows.

    • Our Squadron Aerospace Officer,1st Lt Brad Koehn, can also provide tips setting up X-Plane.

  • Ground School: Once your first Orientation Flight is complete, register as a Student EAA Member and sign up for the Sporty's Learn to Fly Course, online ground school ($249 value).  There is no cost for either of these.  Once you have the ground school course, start studying!  Some instructors prefer at least half of the course to be completed before starting flight training.  Each orientation flight follows a syllabus.  We recommend you review the syllabus and study the related content in the Sporty's Learn to Fly CourseThe syllabus for the orientation Flights is found here: Cadet Orientation Flight Program Guide, page 28 (Appendix 2).

    • Go to Student EAA Member and click on Join EAA Now, then select the Student tab.

    • Then click Sign Up and fill in the necessary information.

    • When you get to the Student Activation Code, click “I do not have my activation code.”

    • Enter the date, airport (KMIC Civil Air Patrol), and pilot name from your orientation flight.

    • Be sure to click the box for the free Learn to Fly course.  You even get admission to museums and membership in the Association of Model Aeronautics!

  • Flight Lesson Voucher: Once you complete half of the training modules, the EAA will send you a letter in the mail to request a voucher for $130 that can be used for flight instruction.  Be sure to look for this, fill out the form and mail it back!!  Your actual voucher will arrive by email from EAA Young Eagles, with the subject Young Eagles Voucher.  

    • If you plan to take flying lessons with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) from North Hennepin Squadron then you should be able to use your voucher towards the plane rental fee.  Send the email of your voucher to our Squadron Financial Officer Lt Col Richard Brummond

  • FAA Knowledge Test Endorsement: Once you complete the Sporty's Learn to Fly Course and pass two practice tests with scores of 80 or higher, you will be able to print and download your endorsement to take the FAA Knowledge test.  When logged in to Sporty's Learn to Fly Course, click on your name in the top right and select Certificate.

  • Student Pilot Certificate: Apply for your Student Pilot Certificate through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA).  Once you apply, you will get an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) number which you will have for your entire aviation career.  Once the application is submitted you will need to meet with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) to review your identity (requires a current driver's license, driver's permit or passport) and approve your application online.  The North Hennepin Squadron has CFI's available to do this for our active cadets.  You will receive your Student Pilot Certificate in a few weeks in the mail.  Scan a copy and upload to Ops Quals in eServices.  Note: You will need an FTN to schedule your FAA Knowledge Test.  The Student Pilot Certificate is also required for your solo flight.  It does not expire and there is no fee.

  • FAA Knowledge Test.  Some instructors won’t start flight training unless your written test is complete.  This shows the instructor you are serious and that you will show up for your first lesson already prepared with a great deal of aviation knowledge.  EAA will reimburse their student members when they pass their FAA written exam ($165 value).  Note: The exam expires in 2 years and you must be current when you do your final check-ride to get certified as a private pilot.  Exams taken during the month, expire at the end of the 24th month (ie: an exam taken 1/22/21 expires on 1/31/23).

    • Test Center: Search for a testing center through PSI. You will request the test called PAR (Private Pilot Airplane).  Tip: If you took the Sporty's Learn to Fly Course, when you get to the section to fill in the School or Experience, you will fill in the following: State=leave blank, Part 141 Pilot School=Other, then select Other Form of Completion on the picklist.  (For the Part 141 Pilot School, there is an option to enter Sporty's, however Sporty's indicated that is for students taking their college level class and we should not use this for the EAA class.  Email if you have questions on this (they are extremely helpful).  You will be able to select various testing centers.  We had a good experience at Hummingbird/AV8 Aviation at Flying Cloud Airport.  

    • You will receive an email on exactly what you can and can't bring into the testing center.  Be sure to read that carefully.  At Hummingbird/AV8, there is a nice lobby for parents to wait.

    • You will receive a print out of your results.  You MUST save this for your check ride to earn your Privat Pilot Certificate.  It is recommended you scan and save a backup on a computer and also save it in a secure location until you need it.  The testing center will not have a copy.

  • Cadet Program.  Advance and excel in the Civil Air Patrol program for cadets.  If you have been a member for 3 years and only have 3 stripes, that may indicate to an instructor a lack of motivation.  Promote at a good rate, participate actively by attending meetings and activities, and secure leadership positions like Aerospace Cadet, staff positions, etc.  The world is loaded with average.  Be ABOVE average and good things will happen to you.

  • Persistent and courteous: Using basic common courtesy (like being polite and always responding to emails promptly) bodes well, especially if the cadet requests instruction again at a later date.  Persistence is important.  Try numerous instructors and check back again periodically.  This shows that you are serious about your desire to fly.  Don’t just give up, but be courteous and not overly persistent in your inquiries.

  • Commit: Once you begin flight instruction, you will need to be as available as possible.  You will have delays due to weather.  If you are also a student, have a job, play sports, and active in clubs, then you may limit the opportunities an instructor has to provide you instruction.  When you prioritize your flight training, it shows the instructor that you are serious about earning your pilot license.  Certainly, cadets often must work to help pay for their flight training.  But be aware that a regular course of Private Pilot instruction in CAP may cost as little as $3,500 while training at a local flight school may easily cost $8,000 - $13,000.  So realizing that saving at least $4,000 in flight training costs may help you appreciate and prioritize the tremendous cost benefit of CAP flight training.

  • Age: Consider your age when seeking flight instruction.  An instructor is unlikely to take on a 14 year-old student when they must wait until they’re 16 to solo and 17 to get a private pilot license.  Young cadets can use the time to fly your simulator, work on the ground school, advance and excel in Civil Air Patrol, and establish contacts with instructors.

  • Medical Exam: Before you solo, you will need an aviation medical exam.  We recommend you get this earlier in the process and prior to investing in flight instruction so you are aware of any medical restrictions.  If you are applying for flight instruction scholarships, most will also require the medical exam.  Your first exam must be performed by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  Then you can transition to BasicMed where exams are completed by your primary physician.

    • MedXPress: Complete an application through the FAA MedXPress system to request an FAA Medical Clearance by electronically completing the FAA Form 8500-8. .  This will require your medical history and visits for the past three years.  Information entered into MedXPress will be available for your FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) to review at the time of your medical examination.

    • AME Exam: Schedule your medical exam with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  You can locate an AME here.  Note: Search only on AME, Minnesota, United States to get a list of doctors.  You will need a Third Class medical to be a certified private pilot.  Randle Corfman is an AME located in Maple Grove.  The AME physical will cost about $150.  Note: This is required at the time you solo and also required for the Cadet Wings program.

  • Flight Instructorship to Solo: Consider asking the instructor for a solo instructorship.  It is a huge commitment for an instructor to take on a student for a full Private Pilot course.  You may have better luck getting an instructor sooner by asking for a commitment to train only to solo.  Although continuity with the same instructor is good, flight academies train to solo every year and it works out fine for the student when they continue training elsewhere.  Also, soloing is a requirement for the Cadet Wings program so getting soloed earlier might work very well to your advantage.  Note: The earliest you can solo for powered flight is age 16.

  • Funds: Try to have enough funds available to at least take you through solo, flying once or twice a week to avoid large gaps between flights. You might possibly solo between 7 and 15 hours of training or more depending on performance.

    • Flight Scholarships, scroll down to the section: Aviation Related Scholarship Resources (below is a sample ONLY!).  Most require reference letters and essays so start early in the process and plan to complete your application at least 2 weeks before the deadline.

      • AOPA: age 15+, apply December through mid-February

      • EAA: apply March-May OR Sept-Oct

      • Women in Aviation (offers scholarships to males and females!), applications due mid-May

      • Wings Program: age 16 1/2+, apply October-December

  • Aviation Exposure: Do extra aviation related things.  Get a subscription to an aviation magazine, watch aviation YouTube videos, go to airshows, go to air museums, do some plane spotting at the airport, etc.

  • Where are the Instructors?  A listing of Civil Air Patrol certified flight instructors can be found on the Minnesota Civil Air Patrol website under Members, Intranet, Operations, Reports, Instructor Pilot-Airplane.  Find instructors in your area.  Perhaps avoid requesting a Lakeville instructor if you live north of Anoka unless you’re willing to do a tremendous amount of driving.  Also, ensure their instructor qualification is current before making an inquiry. (Date in red on list if expired)   Don’t limit yourself only to instructors in your squadron.  Remember to always include another senior in your emails to seniors.  You may wish to talk to your squadron staff for guidance before pursuing instructors.  Remember, asking instructors to voluntarily donate a significant amount of time from their busy lives to train you is a big ask.  Making yourself as attractive a potential student as possible will help them agree to fly with you.

Much of the information above was provided by Maj. Zurales, Minnesota Wing Assistant Director of Aerospace Education

Here is his story: 46 years ago, I joined CAP as a young cadet with a lifelong passion for aviation and a goal to spend my life flying.  As a cadet, CAP provided my start with the opportunity to solo a glider, solo a hot air balloon, and earn a commercial glider certificate.  As a senior member, CAP fed hundreds of hours to my logbook flying orientation flights, maintenance flights, search and rescue training flights, escort flights, training cadets and seniors, and inexpensive proficiency flights.  Now on the other end, I am approaching the conclusion of a 31,000 flight hour career as a Delta airlines 757/767 Captain having spent the equivalent of 3 1/2 years of my life above the surface of the earth.  Many other CAP members have had similar career paths, getting their start with CAP.  For cadets aspiring to an aviation career, I wish you all the best in achieving an even more exciting and rewarding life in aviation and hope CAP can be a part of your success now and into the far distant future.   Someone once said that luck is when preparation and opportunity meet.  Hopefully this message can help you create your own luck in your aviation endeavors. 

Maj Jim Zurales with Bob Hoover (circa 1974)  

Maj Jim Zurales with Bob Hoover (circa 1974)

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