2017 June 14-22, Hot air balloon flight and training is alive and well within the Civil Air Patrol community at the Johnson Flight Academy in Mattoon, Illinois. Eight cadets, ages fourteen years and older with encampment experience, are accepted into this program, offered once a year. Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Raegan Buzzard from the Mt Airy Composite Squadron, Maryland Wing, was fortunate to be one of the cadets chosen for this 2017 National Cadet Activity.
Chief Buzzard was housed at the Eastern Illinois University dormitories in Charleston, IL and flight operations were conducted at Coles County Memorial Airport in Mattoon, IL. Hands-on flight training encompassed layout to launch procedures, navigation, landing, recovery, post-flight procedures and emergency operations. Flight instruction included weather theory and reports, the national airspace system and airport operations. The hot air balloons launched at sunrise and sunset, weather permitting, and cadets learned about the effects of weather on flight in a very tangible way. Written and hands-on testing concluded the program; cadets earned pre-solo wings upon successful completion.
The hot-air balloon ten-day program overlaps the glider and powered flight activities; cadets enjoyed the additional camaraderie of both schools and engaged in trading information, traditions, excitement and fun. Activity Director, Major Robert Bowden, stated, “JFA draws cadets from across the country. It is a unique activity because it brings together cadets all with a love of flying. Only at JFA can you receive hands-on flight training in powered aircraft, gliders or hot air balloons. Many cadets attend for three years to attend all three programs.”