Liam Brennan, of Penobscot, is participating in the Civil Air Patrol's National Flight Academy for the first time this summer. He hopes to get his private pilot's license after the program ends. The program was headquartered at Dewitt Field in Old Town. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Civil Air Patrol

What’s the hardest part about flying?

It’s the landing, according to teenage cadets from around the country who took flight this week with the Civil Air Patrol’s National Flight Academy at Dewitt Field in Old Town.

This was the sixth year the city hosted the academy, during which 18 cadets, including two from Maine, received 25 hours of classroom training along with 10 hours of in-flight instruction. The cadets, who are between 16 and 19 years old, started their training June 22 and immediately got some flight time, according to a release from the Civil Air Patrol.

“Every day is intense flight training. We started flying the first day,” said Amos Grant from Leeds. “The instructor turned the controls over to me and had me climbing and making turns right after takeoff.”

To get their flight training, cadets work in teams of two. On a typical day, the teams make hourlong runs with an instructor, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. One cadet sits in the front with the instructor, while the other sits in the back and observes. After an hour of flying, the group returns to the ground, debriefs and switches places for another hour of flight. The process is repeated in the afternoon — each day, cadets receive around two hours of flight experience, said Major Mark Hyland, public relations officer for the Maine wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Credit: Courtesy of Maine Civil Air Patrol

“Having a passion for flying is really hard to come by now, and very few people really understand exactly what flying’s all about. But here, the people here really understand, so I’m with my own kind,” said cadet Alex Reed, of Michigan, who is participating in the program for the second year.

“If you want to pursue flying, this is the place to start,” Reed said, pointing to Nathan Jaffrey, a cadet from New Hampshire. “He just did his presolo, his supervised solo, so within the next few flights he’s going to be taking the plane up alone. That’s about the farthest you can get without further training.”

Like many other cadets participating in the program, Jaffrey said he plans to get his private pilot’s license, but his ultimate goal is to become an aviation mechanic.

Solo flights are awarded based on a cadet’s performance throughout the week.

“For the solo we go up, do the pattern and come back, which is basically just a rectangle around the airport. I’d say we’ve been studying basically the entire week for just that,” said Liam Brennan of Penobscot.

In addition to their classes, where they learn about topics such as aerodynamics, flight mechanics and preflight planning, cadets also practice taking off and landing at several area airfields including Dexter, Lincoln, Bangor and Pittsfield. Their in-flight instruction covers traffic patterns, steep turns and stalls.

The cadets stayed at the Bangor Air National Guard facility during their training and used 10 Cessna 172 planes that were brought to Maine from other states by the Civil Air Patrol.

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