DSU, Civil Air Patrol taking flight together


Civil Air Patrol Maj. General Joseph Vasquez and his wife, Lt. Col. Leslie Vasquez, being greeted by DSU aviation program staff after they flew into Delaware Airpark Wednesday morning. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

CHESWOLD — Michael Hales, director of aviation at Delaware State University, is hoping the sky is the limit after his school unveiled a unique partnership with the Civil Air Patrol.

The CAP’s national commander, Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez and his wife, Leslie, a lieutenant colonel with the CAP, flew into Delaware Airpark Wednesday morning to meet five of their organization’s top cadets, as well as DSU instructors involved in an unprecedented flying program.

The five Civil Air Patrol cadets are residing on campus at DSU during their flight training. DSU has been selected by the Civil Air Patrol from among 18 colleges to be the home of its first college-based flight program as the five cadets have been awarded private pilot scholarships by CAP’s National Advanced Flight Academy Program.

Now, those cadets are getting the opportunity to learn to fly this summer with DSU’s instructors and fleet of aircraft at Delaware AirPark, located just west of Cheswold.

“We are thrilled that the CAP is here and has selected us to send the students to do the flight training,” said Mr. Hales, a retired lieutenant colonel for the U.S. Army. “We hope this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the CAP and Delaware State University Aviation Program.

“We hope that perhaps some of the students will even choose to join us as students in the (DSU) aviation program later on.”

Civil Air Patrol Maj. General Joseph Vasquez with the five cadets selected to receive private pilots training through the Delaware State University aviation program. From left: James Kidd, 17, Florida, Wyatt Hartman, 18, Maryland, Riley Campbell, 17, Maryland, Erin Duncan, 20, Vermont and Duncan Campbell, 19, Maryland. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Delaware State University’s aircraft fleet runs 10 planes deep, with seven Piper Warriors that most of the students use to train in. DSU is the only historically black college or university that has an aviation program that owns its own airplanes.

Mr. Hales is looking forward to getting the chance to spend more time with the CAP cadets in and around DSU’s airplanes, which feature the school’s colors and tails painted red, a tribute to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

“This is a group of overachievers,” he said, of the cadets. “Some of these students — one of them already is a helicopter pilot — I think all of them have at least some flight training and I think a couple of them have glider ratings, so they are not strangers to flying at all.”

Trying to fill up the cockpits

Maj. Gen. Vazquez is trying to get as many young pilots trained as quickly as he can.

In fact, the NAFA program was initiated in 2016 as a priority of the CAP’s national commander, who is trying to expand the flying opportunities for organization’s youngest members at a time when U.S. airlines, especially regional carriers, are facing pilot shortages.

“The whole point behind this is to alleviate the pilot shortage,” Maj. Gen. Vazquez said. “The Civil Air Patrol does search and rescue, emergency services and we have airspace education with the cadet program.

“This would be an enhancement to our cadet program to focus it not only on the things that they do, which is leadership development, but hopefully to help alleviate the pilot shortage by using our cadets to go into that industry.”

The cadets who received NAFA’s inaugural scholarships, valued at up to $12,000 each, are: Maj. Wyatt Hartman, Sparrows Point, Maryland; Capt. Erin Dundas, Rutland, Vermont; 1st Lt. James D. Kidd, Southwest Ranches, Florida; 2nd Lt. Duncan Campbell and 2nd Lt. Riley D. Campbell, brothers from Frederick, Maryland.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Ms. Dundas said. “I’ve wanted to get my private pilot license for a while now. I’m hoping to do search and rescue.”

Maj. Hartman, 18, is the highest-ranking cadet among the scholarship recipients. He is a member of the Glenn L. Martin Composite Squadron in Middle River, Maryland, where he most recently served as cadet commander.

“We congratulate these outstanding cadets on their appointments to the National Advanced Flight Academy,” said Lt. Col. Vazquez, “and wish them well this summer as they pursue their dreams.”

Timing ‘just perfect’ for DSU

Mrs. Vazquez was one of the promoters of the private pilot scholarships idea. She said DSU was a perfect fit for the inaugural NAFA scholarship class.

“Delaware State University had a good aviation program and they had availability for the students in the summertime and the instructors to deal with them,” she said. “They do a lot of summer programs and everything and they could sandwich us in between their other programs, so the timing was just perfect.”

The cadets will each have their own personal flight instructor and must squeeze 40 hours of flight time, and even more classroom instruction, into the next 30 days. Each cadet will usually get the chance to fly twice a day.

“It is a real intense program,” said John Sherman, chief flight instructor at DSU. “They’re going to be getting their private pilot certificates in about 30 days. It is really quick to be getting 40 (air hours) in.

“They’re not just your average students, you can already tell that after three lessons. I think they’re all going to do well, just from meeting them the last couple of days.”

Hoping program
leads to bigger things

Maj. Gen. Vazquez has dreams of taking the CAP’s new partnership with DSU and spreading it all over the country.

He said his organization is trying to emulate what the Air Cadet League of Canada, a sister organization to CAP, does. They provide 400 private-pilot scholarships a year.

“We’re hoping to expand beyond five (scholarships) next year and my ultimate goal is to get to 500 a year, so that we can at least be a little bit better than the Air Cadet League of Canada,” said Maj. Gen. Vazquez, who presented each of the five scholarship recipients with a commemorative coin Wednesday.

“Right now we’re using Civil Air Patrol corporate funds to finance these scholarships. We’ve also been talking to airlines and some other industry partners to get financing from them as well.”

The first class of five CAP private pilot scholarships is a start.

“The scholarship announcement is a year in coming,” said Lt. Col. Leslie Vazquez, CAP’s aviation industry liaison who oversees the program. “We’re proud to name this first class of young CAP pilots receiving an early opportunity at advanced flight.

“We hope it will be just the first of many future classes to get such a chance.”

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