Big smiles, high fives and just a couple of green gills…”look how far we can see,” “we are higher than the clouds,” “I can’t believe that I actually got to fly an airplane,” and “the cows look like ants.” These are just a few of many amazed comments that came from the mouths of students after landing.
The cadets of Red River High School’s Junior ROTC program were given the opportunity to fly orientation rides, in real airplanes, with the Civil Air Patrol out of Shreveport’s Downtown Airport. For most of the students it was the first time that they had ever flown in an airplane.
The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the US Air Force and has the mission of conducting search and rescue and support for the federal agencies during disaster relief operations. They fly the Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft which hold three passengers plus the pilot. As one of the benefits of being in ROTC, the Civil Air Patrol is authorized to provide orientation flights to cadets free of charge. Junior ROTC cadets are authorized one front seat orientation flight and as many back-seat flights as they want.
All of the aircraft have a full set of flight controls for both the pilot and the front seat passenger which gave the cadets the opportunity to actually fly the airplane under the supervision of the qualified pilot. They were also asked where they wanted to fly to, with most opting to see their hometown of Coushatta and Red River High School from the bird’s eye view.
The cadets learned about what it takes to become a pilot and received a glimpse into what it is like to be a pilot. As a result of this program, some of the cadets have even expressed a new interest in pursuing careers in aviation. Colonel Mark Duffield, the lead instructor for Red River High School’s Junior ROTC program commented that “it is very satisfying to have almost all of our cadets attend the trip and to see the looks of joy and amazement on their faces. This is something that we can do every year and we will definitely be coming back. Many thanks to the Civil Air Patrol for providing this amazing opportunity for our students.
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