Sunday, February 28, 2021

Local youths take flight

Staff Writer | February 20, 2021 1:00 AM

HAYDEN — Local youths will experience the wonder of flight today at the Coeur d’Alene Airport.

“It’s almost like a homecoming,” said Capt. Donald Morgan, Civil Air Patrol.

Today’s orientation flight is part of the CAP cadet program, which aims to engage young people between the ages of 12 and 21 in STEM.

Learning how planes fly is one of the main goals of the program. Cadets study the mechanics of flight before they experience it firsthand.

“Aerospace is central to who we are,” Morgan said. “There’s book learning. Now we want to put them in an airplane and actually let them take control.”

Cadets are allowed to handle the controls while aloft, though the pilot remains in command at all times and flies the plane during takeoff, landing and other critical moments.

The experience that cadets gain through the program could lead them to a number of career possibilities, Morgan said, from becoming pilots or mechanics, to joining the Air Force, to working for an airline and beyond. Cadets also develop personally.

“It’s a great career exposure,” he said. “They learn how to be a follower, then they learn how to be a leader.”

Amid a pandemic that prevented cadets from meeting in person for months, today’s flight is especially significant.

“They haven’t seen each other face to face for months,” Morgan said.

In fact, he added, some who entered the program more recently haven’t met their fellow cadets except in virtual spaces.

“This is the first chance they’ve had to get together,” Morgan said. “To do it in the context of getting in an airplane is beyond exciting.”

It’s an experience that cadets won’t soon forget. Neither will the members of CAP who make it possible.

“When you see the faces of these young people when they come out of the airplane, it’s the coolest,” Morgan said.