United States Air Force Academy

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Airmanship Programs

A core part of the United States Air Force Academy experience involves flying. From instruction in concepts of flight, navigation and operations to real-life application of these principles via soaring and parachuting courses, there are no shortage of opportunities to experience a different altitude. The 306th Flying Training Group provides oversight and management of these programs, involving 2,500 cadets each year.


Most fourth-class cadets get their first exposure to airmanship during Introduction to Soaring, which includes four glider flights culminating in the opportunity for basic aerobatics. Third-class cadets can enroll in Basic Soaring and have the chance to solo pilot a glider – graduates of this course are then eligible to apply to become Cadet Soaring Instructor Pilots. Those selected complete a year-long upgrade program during third-class year where they earn G-Wings and later, conduct 95 percent of all glider flight instruction.

Learn more about soaring


Those cadets who meet the necessary physical requirements may choose to take an elective course in free-fall parachuting. Completing five free-fall parachute jumps earns cadets the Air Force basic military jump wings. Cadets from the basic free-fall course may then be selected as parachute/jumpmaster trainees during third-class year, and upon graduating this course become official members of the Air Force Parachute Team, The Wings of Blue, and serve as the primary instructors for the basic free-fall course while training for skydiving demonstrations or competitions.


Cadets may have the opportunity to participate in powered flight during their second-class year or during the summer before their first-class year. Cadets interested in precision flight and with a FAA Private Pilot Certificate may apply to become part of the Academy’s Flying Team. Typically, cadets try out for the team and are selected during their fourth-class year, but may be added to the team in a later year as circumstances require. Selected cadets receive training in precision landings, cross-country navigation, instrument flying and more.


Cadets who demonstrate high levels of ability in airmanship programs can compete at the intercollegiate level:

  • Cadet Soaring Instructors compete in regional and national cross-country soaring and aerobatic events as members of the Sailplane Racing Team and the Aerobatic Demonstration Team
  • Cadet members of The Wings of Blue compete in events across the country, culminating at the Collegiate and U.S. National Parachuting Championships
  • The Academy Flying Team and its cadets also compete in regional and national level events

All of the cadet aviation teams are nationally recognized and perennially earn top honors. These teams also conduct demonstrations at national and international events. The Flying Team and Aerobatic Demonstration Team perform at airshows across the country and The Wings of Blue perform as the Air Force Parachute Team at airshows and high profile events such as the Orange Bowl.