14 Cadets Complete Air Force Jr. ROTC Aviation Academy
Fourteen Air Force Jr. ROTC cadets completed an intensive, 8-week flight training program at ECSU. ECSU is one 17 university campuses across the country to hold the summer academy.
Veronica Bearup, 18, sat at a table in the K.E. White Center, dressed in her green Air Force flight suit, celebrating 8-weeks of training to become a pilot. Bearup, along with 13 other Air Force Jr. ROTC cadets, came to Elizabeth City State University this summer to train as pilots with dreams of becoming aviators.
“It was super fun and really challenging,” said the high school senior from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This summer marked the inaugural year for 17 university campuses across the country to host aviation academies for cadets from across all 50 states. It is a call to arms of sorts for more pilots, especially minorities and women.
The 14 cadets celebrated the completion of their summer training with a banquet luncheon Monday, July 26. The future aviators celebrated their time in an intensive version of ECSU’s signature aviation flight program and with the guidance of faculty and certified flight instructors, work towards their private pilot’s license.
Their experience in Elizabeth City, said ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon, is a testament to the university’s world-class aviation program and the story of its growth to national prominence.
“We are proud of our aviation program and now have a new group of ambassadors to tell our story,” she said of the cadets during opening remarks.
ECSU was awarded a $286,000 contract to train the Jr. ROTC cadets. The program brought the 14 cadets to Elizabeth City to train and prepare for a future in military aviation.
The scholarship program is a collaborative effort between the 17 universities and the Air Force to address a national pilot shortage. Currently, Boeing predicts an annual need to hire 6,000 civilian pilots a year for the next 20 years and military needs push that number over 8,000.
Talking to the cadets about their futures in aviation, it’s clear there are a variety of goals amongst them. Some, like 18-year-old Nicholas Boykins, plan to join the U.S. Marines. He is currently focused on aviation mechanics, but after 8-weeks with ECSU’s intensive flight program, he now has his eye on becoming a pilot.
“The program was pretty challenging,” he said. “I don’t have my license yet, but I did solo. It was not as nerve-wracking as I thought. It’s been a great opportunity.”
According to Department of Aviation and Emergency Management chair, Orestes Gooden, all of the cadets completed their solo flights and half of the group earned their private licenses, while the rest are near completing their qualifications.
Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Strauss was the event’s keynote speaker. Strauss, a fighter pilot, military flight instructor, and former United Airlines first officer, addressed the cadets about the importance of their training over the summer, and its impact on the future of aviation.
“I challenge each one of you to take the lessons you have learned here and build upon them,” he said.
He emphasized that currently, the aviation industry needs them. Their futures, whether in the military or commercial sectors, are secure.
“Every one of you will get a job. The demand is so high,” said Strauss.
This was the first year for the cadet academy. Originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, it was postponed due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the ECSU School of Science, Aviation, Health and Technology, said he anticipates the academy to continue next summer.