Teens soar at 11th-annual aviation camp

  • Published
  • By Leslie Finstein
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Thirty-six teens from around the Air Force participated in the 11th-annual Teen Aviation Camp here June 4 through 8.

All of the 16- and 17-year old campers come from Air Force families and have parents who are active duty, retirees, reservists, or members of the Air National Guard.

Teens and their families only have to pay for the cost of transportation to the Academy. The camp and its activities are free. The Air Force Services Agency sponsors and organizes the camp.

"I went to space camp a few years ago, but that is more geared towards NASA," said 16-year-old Paige Johnson of Stoneham, Colo. "Then I heard about this camp, and since I really want to fly planes, I knew this was the one for me."

Paige's father is Col. Loren Johnson of the Air National Guard. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and even served as Thunderbird No. 8.

She said she wants to follow in her dad's footsteps, becoming a pilot or an aeronautical engineer.

Another camper, 16-year-old Jacob Swortzel, said he is also inspired by his father, Lt. Col. Robert Swortzel, a reservist who trains pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

"I'm interested in aviation because my dad flies," Mr. Swortzel said. "I've seen what he's done in his career and I think it's great how he's served his country."

Over the course of the camp, the teens were introduced to aviation and the Academy. They toured labs, met with cadets, professors, and admissions representatives, ate in the dining hall, built gliders and flew aboard a T-41 Mescalero.

Camp counselors, like Payal Mehta of Minot Air Force Base, N.D., kept things running all week at the camp. She, like the other counselors, works for Air Force Services.

"The impact is the best part of being involved in camps like this," Ms. Mehta said. "These kids are our future. I want to help lead and guide them and show them what's out there for them."

The camp wrapped up June 8 with glider flights, tours of the Academy, an evening sit down with Academy admissions representatives, and a close-out party.