7/19/2006–Frederick, MD–The skies were clear and blue, and the winds were calm. The setting was just right for a 15 year old from Finksburg, Md. to take to the skies over Frederick Municipal Airport in a Schweizer 2-33 sailplane, just as he has been doing with his instructors regularly for the past year.
This time was different, though. This time his teacher would stay on the tarmac, and run alongside the wing of the glider, watching his student take off to solo for the first time.
The student, Zach Bowen, is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association (M-ASA), and a cadet in the Mt. Airy Composite Squadron in the Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). His instructor, George Simms, of Washington D.C., is a volunteer certified flight instructor (CFI) with M-ASA, and has been working with Bowen since last fall.
Bowen says that although he has always been interested in flying, his interest in glider flight was sparked last summer, when he attended a National Glider Flight Academy hosted by CAP in Georgia. At this 10-day camp, he received 33 instructional glider flights, and returned home having pre-soloed in a Blanik L-23. He asked his parents, “Where can I find gliders here in Maryland?”
During the fall, Bowen assisted the flight line crew of the Maryland Wing Glider Operations, serving as wing runner, reviewing safety rules, and providing cockpit overviews to other cadets preparing for their first glider flights. He also garnered some instructional flight time with Maryland Wing's glider CFI, Kevin Martin. In June, he assisted on the flight line crew for Maryland Wing's Aerospace Academy.
While spending time at Frederick Airport, and under the recommendation of CAP pilot Capt. Olin Kinney, Bowen became acquainted with members of M-ASA, and joined the soaring club so that he could find an instructor and continue his flight training. He was assigned to Simms, who held ground classes, assigned tests, and took to the air as often as possible
The time an effort finally paid off on Sunday, July 16.
“It was relatively uneventful,” said Bowen, “which is what you hope for when you solo.”
The weather was cooperative for the entire day, which allowed Bowen to solo two more times during the afternoon. It was an exceptionally successful day for Simms, who soloed another student, Eric Schuyler, of Virginia, as well.
Bowen, a homeschooler and student at Carroll Community College, plans to continue with his flight instruction, and work toward obtaining his private glider pilot’s license. Minimum requirements for this include at least 10 solo flights, two hours of accumulated solo flight time, as well as instructional flights, additional ground school, and testing.
Eventually, Bowen would like to take up powered flight as well. “I have learned so much, and all of it from volunteers, both with M-ASA and CAP. You can’t do this without volunteer pilots to tow the sailplanes, volunteer flight instructors to teach the skills, and volunteers on the ground assisting with flight line and safety issues. I hope that when I am old enough, I will have acquired enough training and experience to be able to do this for other kids.”
CAP, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 60,000 members nationwide. CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies.
Members take a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the almost 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP Cadet Program. CAP's cadet programs provide young men and women with a safe and motivating environment in which to grow and explore opportunities in the military and aviation industries. CAP has been performing missions for America for more than 63 years.
There are approximately 1,300 members of CAP in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 34 search and rescue missions and were credited with 23 finds.
For information about the Maryland Wing of CAP, visit http://mdcap.org/ or listen to weekly episodes of "Civil Air Patrol Today" broadcast every Sunday morning on the following radio stations:
In addition, programs may be listened to at the Maryland Wing web site at http://mdcap.org/radio/ and can also be subscribed to as a podcast.
Maryland Wing Public Affairs also offers an e-mail alert system for news releases. When news breaks, a subscriber receives an automatic e-mail with a summary of the news release and a link back to the story on the MDWG web site. Signing up for e-mail news alerts is easy. Just go to: http://mdcap.org/?fuseaction=newsalert.form and fill in your e-mail address.
More information about M-ASA is available at www.m-asa.org.
The Mt. Airy Composite Squadron meets 7 p.m. Thursday evenings at the Mt. Airy Senior Center, 713 Ridge Ave., Mount Airy, MD 21771. Prospective cadets, ages 12-18, and their parents are always welcome. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 301-829-9057, or visit www.mtairy-cap.org.