By Henry M. Holden
One look at Antoine Chapman and you’d take him for a typical high school junior. And, you would be right, except he has one accomplishment that no other student at West Orange High School has. – He is a certified private pilot, licensed by the FAA to fly a single engine airplane. Chapman is also a Cadet Captain in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
“The Air Force put out a notice to the Air Force JROTC programs that they were trying to build up pilots for military as well as commercial aviation because of the expected shortfall of pilots in the near future,” said AFROTC Chief Master Sergeant Richard Thurston (USAF retired).
“So, the Air Force came out with an all-expenses paid scholarship and offered it to all the ROTC programs. There are over 900 ROTC programs but only 150 cadets were selected for the pilot training scholarship. Cadet Chapman was one of the lucky 150 and the only one out of West Orange High School.”
“My JROTC instructor posted the availability of the flight scholarship on Google classroom and it sounded interesting, so I signed up,” said Chapman.
“It is challenging to earn the scholarship,” continued Thurston. “Cadet Chapman had to take an AQT (Aviation Qualification Test). The program looks at the cadets scores and their academics and their standings in the JROTC units. They grade their participation and whether or not they are holding rank and leadership positions and more.”
“I don’t think Antoine had any idea how he would evolve in the program,” said Thurston. “When he came into the program flying a plane wasn’t even on his radar. And now I believe he has the makings of a future general.”
There was no prerequisite of previous flight time and there is no military commitment once the cadet has completed the scholarship requirements.
“I soloed in late June 2019, at the end of my sophomore year. The airplane was a Piper Warrior PA 28. We had a little bit of instrument training. I had about three hours of instrument training, (which doesn’t qualify him to fly through clouds or in bad weather). It was mostly VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flying, see and being seen by others in the sky.”
“I took my flight training at Delaware State University. It was continual training every day except for Sundays of ground school and flight training simultaneously. It lasted for eight weeks.”
But the young cadet faced other challenges as well. Many student pilots have challenges when it comes to spin and stall configurations of the airplane. But not Chapman. “My spin and stall training was part of the fun of learning to fly.”
Cadet Chapman currently has over 50 hours of flying in his logbook. The greatest challenge he faced was on his local solo flight.
“I departed Delaware Airport enroute to Dover Airport and the practice area. Once in the air, I realize that my instructor had accidentally not posted the approach frequency to Dover Airport. I started to fly back to Delaware Airport, land and get the frequency to Dover approach. The traffic pattern was congested so I had to do two 360s around the quarry. On my second 360 a bird clipped my wing and I dropped from 1,000 feet to 400 feet.” (Yes, he landed safely.)
In the future Antoine sees himself becoming a fighter pilot. “I’d like to go to the Air Force Academy, or to Embry Riddle for more flight training.”