ECU joins in success of JROTC flight program

Students from as far as Utah, Texas and Florida made East Carolina University their summer home this year as part of an Air Force Junior ROTC flight academy program to earn their private pilot license.

In ECU’s first experience as a host partnering university and in conjunction with D2 Flight Academy, ECU ROTC students helped as chaperones to the participants. Support came from the U.S. Air Force and ECU’s Office of National Security and Industry Initiatives.

Members of the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy in ECU shirts at Washington-Warren Airport. (photo from Facebook)

Most of the 12 visiting students are in high school, although one was from Texas A&M University and another the Air Force Academy. Texas A&M rising senior Andrew Visentine is studying chemical engineering.

“It’s interesting because some people are just here because they thought it was a cool thing through JROTC and they want to do biomedicine or sports medicine, and we have a few who want to be a private pilot,” Visentine said. “It’s about opportunity, and we do have some people who want to be an Air Force pilot and fly jets. I saw “Top Gun” is my story. Originally I wanted to be an engineering and work on the bases and things like that. I saw “Top Gun” and thought that now I at least have to try to be a pilot. I started taking tests and saw this to see if I like flying or not, and it’s a great opportunity to experience it first-hand. I’ve actually learned I more enjoy the navigational and support aspects of it. Now, my goal is to be a combat systems officer, which is the backseater in a fighter jet or navigator in a big bomber jet.”

The 12 participants of the eight-week program trained at Washington-Warren Airport. A graduation ceremony was held in New Bern on July 21.

Cadets earn their license upon successful completion of ground school, solo flight, Federal Aviation Administration written exam and a final “check ride” with a designated pilot examiner.

Key leaders at ECU involved in the program included Brad Collier, assistant director of first-year and transition programs and academic adviser for the College of Engineering and Technology, ECU director of national security initiatives Jim Menke and Lt. Col William Dye as commander of ECU Air Force ROTC Detachment 600.

The first edition of the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy was summer 2018. In its first four years, the program produced more than 600 FAA-certified new pilots and thanks to partnering universities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, has executed approximately $18 Million in funds through the United States Air Force Rated Diversity Initiative.

ECU joined this year and made a positive impression on visiting students.

“For the campus itself and being interested in the College of Engineering and Technology, I spent many hours in the Isley Innovation Hub and worked on 3D print things and connected with a local church, which is nice for Sunday mornings,” Visentine said. “In the library, I’ve learned how to use some of their stuff. The resources here have been pretty impressive.”