Mauricio Guerra, a Del Rio High School junior and an Airman First Class in the TX-66 Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit, earned a private pilot’s license and college credit hours after graduating from a summer flight academy.
Guerra is the first Del Rioan to earn their pilot’s license through the academy.
The flight academy is a Chief of Staff of the Air Force scholarship to generate aviation interest among high school students. Senior Aerospace Science Instructor Col. (Ret.) Simon Benavides said there is a shortage of pilots worldwide, not only in the military, but also in the civilian sector.
Benavides deemed Guerra as a potential candidate for the program. Guerra said this was an opportunity to open the doors for other students and represent the community.
“At first I was nervous, because I didn’t know if I was capable. I got there and I was determined to prove what Del Rio (the community) can do,” Guerra said.
Only cadets that are within high school administrator. Applicants qualified by having a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, on a 4.0 scale, and had to be 17 years old at the time of graduation to attend.
Benavides said approximately 1,500 applications were sent in and only 150 students were accepted.
The academy takes approximately eight weeks to complete over the summer and is hosted at institutions in the states of Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Utah and Virginia.
Guerra attended the Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida for his training.
“Not everybody who gets selected completes the course,” Benavides said. Guerra said his classroom had eight students and only five, including Guerra, passed the training.
Students in the academy are supposed to follow a schedule and are meant to fly solo by the first month, according to Guerra. Flying solo means the student flies without a passenger or instructor inside the aircraft.
“It was competitive, there was a sense of competition in the classroom, but that only pushed me to try harder,” Guerra said.
Guerra’s achievement is recognizable, as he is the only student that will don a flight suit during uniform days at the high school, but he is not one to brag about it.
“I’m not a public person. My teachers and friends have been asking what I’m wearing and I just explain to them about my training,” Guerra said.
The name tag on Guerra’s uniform also holds a special meaning. The symbol above Guerra’s name, specifically the star symbolizes he completed and passed the course.
Before completing the course there is no star and when Guerra began the course there was no symbol. The flight academy is rigorous and Guerra said any students applying for the academy needs to be ready to dedicate hours into studying.
Benavides said the course Guerra attended is the same course college seniors, intending to become pilots, take before being sent to a military base for further pilot training. “The fact that he (Guerra) is a private pilot now (means) if he decides to go to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college he wouldn’t do that (course),” Benavides said.
Guerra plans to pursue a career in aviation after high school. Guerra said his first option is to go to college and become a pilot for the United States Air Force and if that does not pan out for him, he plans to obtain his commercial pilot license or pursue mechanical aviation.