A high school program is inspiring the next generation of pilots to aim high. The Red Tail Cadet Program at Ferguson Florissant School District, near St. Louis, teaches students how to fly the friendly skies.

The program includes six weeks of flying during the summer, four days a week. Students practice maneuvers, including steep turns and banks.

Miquel Brown, a senior with STEAM Academy at McCluer South-Berkeley, said his first time flying was through the program.

“Just being there was so surreal. It was like amazing – the view, how high I was. It just felt unrealistic, like I couldn’t believe I was there, especially as a 16-year-old student at the time,” he said. “After the first flight, the view, learning about aerodynamics and everything that comes with it, I just fell in love with it. Everything clicked for me.”

Brown said automation is not used – the students are flying the planes the entire time they are in the air.

“The coolest thing I’ve done, I’ve landed at Lambert Airport – the busiest airport around. It was pretty crazy because we were landing and a big Boeing 747 was coming in behind it,” Brown told Missourinet at the Missouri School Boards’ Association’s annual conference. “So, I had to get off the runway as fast as possible. We veered off to the left and gave them their room.”

According to Brown, the program is more than just teaching students how to fly.

“It’s about team building leadership,” Brown said. “Being a part of the Red Tail Cadet Program makes you want to be a better version of yourself. When I first joined the program, I was a great student – that’s how I got in. But school was easy after this. Flying planes and studying for it is no joke. When I came back to school, it was just like, what’s next? Like, I’m ready. The Red Tail Cadet Program, I feel like it has prepared me for anything I can do in life.”

Cadets are selected from a pool of applicants from the district. They are chosen based on their academic excellence, community involvement, and their aptitude for success in a rigorous aviation program.

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