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Pair of Franklin High School seniors earn pilot's licenses

(FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL – Sept. 28, 2022) – Two Franklin High School seniors are soaring high these days. Zoe Black and Angelo Rivera each earned their pilot’s license this summer at an Air Force JROTC flight academy.

The two Air Force JROTC cadets received a $25,000 scholarship to take part in an eight-week flight camp where they trained and studied 14 hours a day, six days a week to earn their private single-engine pilot’s license. Black’s flight school was at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, while Rivera attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The intense training included flight time and ground school to learn regulations to pass the Federal Aviation Administration knowledge test.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a pilot and when I finally had that in writing, there’s no better feeling in the world,” Rivera said. “I’ve always been interested in aviation. Flying anything is fulfilling to me. Anytime I get a chance to be in the cockpit of a drone or plane, I jump at the opportunity.”

Rivera’s passion for flying began at an early age – a passion nurtured by his parents who both served in the Air Force. His dream is to receive a U.S. Air Force Academy appointment, attend the University of North Dakota or any college with a solid flight school to ultimately become an Air Force fighter pilot.

“My drones fly 100 miles,” said Rivera, who earned the distinction of fastest drone pilot at the Texas Nationals competition in 2020. “I like fast and the only way to get that is to fly fighters.”

Black’s experience is much different from her colleague’s. Before becoming a pilot, she’d only been on a commercial flight two or three times in her lifetime and even got air sick her first time in the small plane. Flying didn’t become her passion until she attended flight school.

“I knew that if I saw this through, I was going to love it and I absolutely did,” she said. “Every day, I wake up and I look in the clouds and I want to go fly.”

Black’s inspiration for applying for the flight school came through Franklin AFJROTC instructor Maj. Todd Parsont who thought it would be a good opportunity for Black.

“I couldn't be prouder of our two cadets and know they will continue to excel in our unit,” Parsont said. “Having students qualify for a $25,000 scholarship program that accepts only 230 cadets out of 120,000 worldwide speaks for itself.  It speaks to the quality of Angelo and Zoe and the opportunities our AFJROTC program provides.”  

Like Rivera, Black is applying for Air Force Academy appointment with Embry-Riddle her second choice.

“Either way, I’m going to do what I can to fly as a career – military or commercial,” she said. “When I’m in the air, you feel like you are on top of the world and you see everything from a different perspective. It feels like a dream.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photo by Leonel Monroy, Jr.