NEW ULM, Minn. (KEYC) - The North Central Region Joint Flight Academy is taking center stage at the New Ulm and Mankato airports as cadets from all across the nation take some of the first steps in their aviation careers.
Twelve power and 12 glider students took flight in southern Minnesota this week with a passion for aviation.
“When I got into aviation, I was eight years old. My first flight got me hooked. I loved it,” said Alexander Heinrich, glider student.
Alexander Heinrich and a number of other glider students soared through the sky in New Ulm learning a number of tips and tricks to flying.
“The gliders are very much like aircraft, it flies the same as an airplane, but teaches good airmanship and basic learning,” said Bill Pagel, chief glider instructor.
“It is amazing, it is great. All the experience and everything that you learn from this academy will stick with you for the rest of your life. It’s great,” said Heinrich.
The national flight academy gives the young students a hands–on look at aviation and prepares the cadets for the next step.
“That’s really significant, the cadets here, we have a number of 14 year olds that can start in gliders before they start in an airplane,” said Pagel.
“I knew this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. I’m trying to work on that,” said Heinrich.
And many of the students were able to pick up on the action quickly.
“It didn’t take too much, I’ve flown a couple of planes before, I’ve done stuff in the simulator at home. Learning to get the skills down, it does take a little bit of practice, make sure you have good turns, and keep the glider streamlined,” said Heinrich.
As much fun as the students have learning some essential skills, the instructors are just as happy to help out.
“It’s very rewarding. I started flying as a cadet at one of these academies, it’s really rewarding to be back here as an instructor. Not just see them learn how to fly, but this is a foundational learning experience for them. Teaching discipline, perseverance, and life lessons that will work well for them,” said Pagel.
The cadets will graduate from the academy this weekend.
“After this, they will choose to continue flight training back at their squadrons. Most local squadrons don’t have local access to the gliders, so most will transition to airplanes, but that’s good anyways. A lot of our graduates continue on to careers in the military, civilian airspace world, just flying privately, some in the commercial, so this is all just a great start for them,” said Pagel.
Allowing aviation careers to take off.