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 Flight Sergeant Andy Plater (left) is congratulated by his flight instructor Brooke DeBacker (right) following his first solo flight on the Air Cadet Power Pilot Scholarship Course.

It’s a defining event in the training of a fledgling pilot and for 17-year-old air cadet Andy Plater, it’s a dream come true.

The Southampton resident today (July 12) took a major step to becoming a fully qualified air pilot by successfully manoeuvring his Cessna-152 around the circuit of the Region of Waterloo International Airport completely alone.

First solo, as the phrase implies, is the first time a flight candidate controls the aircraft without an instructor aboard. Before taking this significant step, Andy first had to demonstrate competence in basic piloting skills to his flight instructor, Brooke DeBacker Andy says, “This has been a dream of mine since my first flight when I was ten” But that’s hardly the end of the training regimen. Indeed, it has really just begun.

Andy has been a member of 340 “Griffon” Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron for four years. He has risen to the rank of Flight Sergeant, a testament to his dedication to the air cadet program and leadership potential.

In that time Andy Plater has mastered theory of flight, navigation, meteorology, airmanship – all the basic skills a good pilot must know. He has achieved high standards in leadership, citizenship, ceremonial drill and other cadet related training.

Last winter, Andy applied for an Air Cadet League of Canada flying scholarship; one of the most sought-after advanced specialty training courses in Canada. Of the more than 120 applicants in Ontario this year, only 82 were selected for this prestigious award. Imagine Andy’s delight to learn he was one of the recipients.

The flying scholarship candidates started their training on July 4th at one of five training centres being used for the summer of 2011, which are located in Brampton, Oshawa, Windsor, London and Breslau (Kitchener-Waterloo).

Over the following weeks, cadets will spend long hours studying volumes of written material and honing the intricate skills of flying. The cadets will accumulate an average of 45-50 hours flying time during the course in qualifying for their Transport Canada Private Pilot Licence and coveted Royal Canadian Air Cadet “wings” qualification badge.

The Flying Scholarship program is one of the longest-standing projects of the 70-year-old Air Cadet League of Canada, national sponsor of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Of the scholarships, 81 are funded by the Department of National Defence and the other by the Airline Pilot’s Association.

One of the best known graduates of the Flying Scholarship program is retired Colonel, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who stated, “Cadets taught me how to fly. I never knew how high it would take me.”

Sponsored in partnership between the Department of National Defence and the Air Cadet League of Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets welcomes young people aged 12-18 to its community-based youth program focusing on citizenship, leadership and physical fitness. In due course, many will qualify for flight training themselves and follow in the footsteps of Chris Hadfield and Andy Plater

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011