Civil Air Patrol

La Crosse cadet earns his private pilot’s wings

Photo by Major Todd Mandel – Captain Dave Berget and Cadet Major Michael Ebert stand aside the aircraft that Ebert used to earn his private pilot’s certificate.

La Crosse, Wis. – Cadet Major Michael Ebert knows that someday he wants to fly for the United States Air Force.  That dream motivated him to join Civil Air Patrol as well as motivating him to enter the squadron’s Flight Training Program.  That dream also pushed him to earn his private pilot’s certificate and make good on a promise to finish what he started.

Captain David Berget, one of the La Crosse Composite Squadron’s certified flight instructors, trained Ebert over the past six months of flight training.  “Earning your Private Pilot’s Certificate is a huge accomplishment, and Cadet Ebert had the drive and determination to see it all the way through,” said Berget.

In order for Ebert, who is a senior at West Salem High School, to qualify for training, he first had to prove to the squadron that he deserved the privilege of entering the training program.

“When you think about it, we’re allowing a teenager to fly a quarter-million dollar government asset,” said Major Todd Mandel, the squadron’s deputy commander for cadets.  “So we make sure that the cadets who qualify for our flight training program have proven themselves, are mature and have earned the privilege.”

In order to earn his pilot’s license, Ebert had to spend more than 60 hours in the cockpit learning maneuvers, takeoffs, landings, navigation and emergency procedures.  This training was combined with another 40 to 50 hours of academic learning referred to as ground school.

For Ebert there was never any doubt, “I want to be a USAF pilot, and this is the first stepping stone in reaching that goal.  Being in CAP and having someone like Captain Berget willing to volunteer his time to teach and mentor me has been a great experience.”

In order to qualify for the squadron’s Flight Training Program, a cadet must be at least 15 years old, display commitment to the program, good academic performance and exemplary character.  Cadets must first earn the grade of Cadet Master Sergeant, which typically requires 12-18 months of membership.  Flight training is self-funded, but typically costs 40%-50% what it would cost to complete the training commercially.  Limited scholarships are often available.

Still, the Flight Training Program has its own demands as Cadet Ebert explained, “It isn’t for everyone, but if you can meet the high standards that CAP sets, then it’s a great opportunity to accomplish something few teenagers get to do.”

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