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cadet blogs

Pilot Shadow

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo This weekend, I went on my first helicopter ride. The Academy’s Pilot Shadow Program provides cadets with the opportunity to travel to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts to experience the life of a pilot for the weekend. Flight school is one of the many options we have upon graduation from the Academy and this program gives us an opportunity to see what life would be like if we choose that path. Though flight school is highly competitive, the Pilot Shadow Program is open to all cadets, on a first-come, first-served basis. I did it last year and had a great time so as soon as I heard that the sign-ups for this spring came out, I added my name and my friend’s names to the sheet.


Each weekend, there are four slots so that two cadets can fly with the fixed-wing crew and two can fly with the helicopter crew. The cadets fly one platform on Saturday and switch on Sunday. Last year, my friend, Katie and I decided to fly fixed-wing in the CASA-144 on Saturday and the helo on Sunday. We were really disappointed when the weather was too bad to fly on Sunday. For about a year, we have been anticipating the Coast Guard helicopter ride and we finally got one yesterday. The crew was really nice and helpful. They answered all the questions we had, let us take over communications on the radios, and even let us try the hovering controls with the door open. It was a great experience.


Today, we flew in the CASA-144, a fixed-wing plane. It was an interesting flight because some of the computer systems were down and one of the crew members had motion sickness. It was fascinating, though, to see how well the crew communicated with one another, overcame each challenge and still accomplished their mission.


I still haven’t decided what I want to do when I graduate but the Academy offers so many awesome chances to understand all of the options.


More about Sarah.