Wednesday , July 11, 2018 - 5:15 AM
Preston Hatch, 17, is on track to getting his private pilot’s license next week, thanks to a U.S. Air Force scholarship.
That financial help took him to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to complete his flight hours and receive the license he has wanted for so long.
“I want to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force,” Hatch told the Standard-Examiner from Virginia. “There are not many of them and I want to be one of the best and, on top of that, I get to serve my country.”
Hatch is one of two Utah students to receive the scholarship — both of them students at Utah Military Academy.
And now, thanks to a new aviation cadet program at Utah Military Academy, some of Hatch’s classmates will be able to get licensed as private pilots at the academy.
Hatch said he is excited to see his classmates benefit from a program like this at school.
“Just the financial aid is very neat,” Hatch said. “Also, making it in the school environment makes it easier.”
Kit Workman, Utah Military Academy commandant of cadets, said that both Utah Military Academy campuses — including one in Ogden and one in Lehi — will offer the college-level program starting this upcoming school year. The program gives cadets the opportunity to earn hours toward a private pilot’s license.
“It is an exciting time for anyone that wants to fly,” Workman said. “We put out the program recognizing there is a need for pilots.”
According to numbers released by the U.S. Air Force, by the end of fiscal year 2016 the force was 1,555 pilots short from its goal of 20,000.
To try to alleviate what they call an “aircrew crisis,” the U.S. Air Force gave scholarships this summer to 120 JROTC students as part of their new Flight Academy. Six partnering universities with accredited aviation programs are hosting the students for seven to nine weeks during the summer.
The U.S. Air Force plans to give 250 scholarships in 2019.
Up until this year, Workman said, the academy offered the ground school — the equivalent of getting the driver’s permit — to students who wanted to fly. That portion of the training takes about one semester.
Workman said that, in order to get the private pilot’s license, students need to get at least 40 hours of flight time, and that could take longer, depending on the student.
Utah Military Academy will accept eight to 10 juniors and seniors per semester into their Aviation Cadet Program, Workman said. The school will pay for the flight time for students who are accepted into the program.
The school is still negotiating with local airports that could host the students for their flight times.
Matt Throckmorton, Utah Military Academy executive director, said in a news release the academy is “excited to restore this time-honored program originally used during the Second World War to help prepare more cadets to become pilots.”
Those interesting in learning more about the program can call the Utah Military Academy at 801-689-3013.
“The hope is that they are taking their classes because they want to get their license,” Workman said. “Our goal is to get them on that first certification, and then get them to college and, hopefully, they’ll go into military or commercial aviation.”
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