Positive Connections: Youth, open skies, and soaring engineless planes all come together in Kansas

Positive Connections

YODER, Kan. (KSNW) – Have you ever flown in an engineless plane? Youth from around the country descended on Kansas in June to tackle that fun and challenging endeavor.

The Civil Air Patrol’s glider academy invites cadets to learn about the fundamentals of aviation through classroom activities, self-study texts, orientation flights, and flight training.

“Most of these cadets have no glider experience but after the two weeks, with any luck, the majority of them will earn their pre-solo badge which means they have flown the airplane three times without the instructor’s input at all, from take-off to landing, but with the instructor with them,” said Civil Air Patrol Lt. Colonel Douglas Dutton. “If the instructor is comfortable enough to let them on their own then they will fly a solo flight and they will earn their solo wings and they will be considered a Civil Air Patrol pilot.”

A number of cadets indeed earned their solo wings. Many of them called the experience freeing.

“It felt amazing. Then, once I am up there like on my solo just now. It felt great. I was at peace. It was awesome out there,” said cadet Sydney Loos, 15.

“It’s just a sense of freedom, I suppose. That’s kind of cliché,” said cadet Thomas Zapel, 17. “You are up there alone. It’s free. It’s quiet. Today it’s pretty smooth up there. It’s just really relaxing to be up there.”

Zapel is no stranger to flying. The recent high school graduate has his private pilot’s license. He flew himself to Kansas from Colorado for the glider camp. “Any flying experience is good experience,” Zapel said. “It’s a big passion of mine and I’d like to keep doing it.”

Like Zapel, Loos wants to take her flying skills to the next level. “I am hoping to turn it into a career. I am hoping to work my way up to becoming an Air Force fighter pilot,” Loos explained.

Lt. Col. Dutton said many former cadets go onto fly for a living. “We have cadets in every branch of the service. We have cadets as astronauts,” he explained.

Dutton is no stranger to gliding. He caught the bug in 2019. “I started flying gliders a little over two years ago,” he said. “I really drank the Koolaid.”

Dutton said no matter what the cadets choose to do after the camp, he hoped they learned some valuable lessons.

“I want them to leave with a love for aviation and an understanding of glider operations and how this is different and how it can make you a better pilot,” Dutton said.

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