From Young Eagle to Instructor

By Ron Hefner, EAA 116736

Getting her start as an EAA Young Eagle, U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Regan Hefner (class of 2020) flies her high-performance glider more than a mile above the cadet area while instructing younger cadets on the intricacies and precision of airmanship and pure flight, as part of the cadet curriculum, while also playing her part to ready future U.S. Air Force pilots.

Regan said she got her start in aviation by taking her first airplane ride with her father Ron in the family’s World War II Stinson L-5 “Flying Jeep.”

“That ride set the hook,” she said, adding that her grandfather flew those same airplanes in WWII as a flying sergeant. From then on, Regan has blazed a path that will lead to her earning a commission as a USAF 2nd lieutenant and a member of the active duty Air Force. Regan admits that after that initial ride in the family airplane she became addicted to flying by hanging out with her dad as he would fly the L-5, and later a Tri Pacer, to EAA Chapter 80 Young Eagles rallies in the Omaha, Nebraska, area.

“Those flights really make a difference to young future aviation hopefuls, who come to experience a free airplane ride,” she said. Since graduating from high school, Regan has attended the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. She notes that despite being one of the most competitive higher-learning institutions in the nation, and one of five U.S. federal service academies, entry is possible with the right education focus, real determination, and the backing of those who want to help a prospective cadet succeed. That backing, said Regan, includes the support volunteered by EAA members, in particular its Young Eagles pilots. Of the Academy experience, Regan has nothing but praise.

“I have learned much and absorbed a tremendous resume of education, skill sets, and social interactions,” she said. “The four years literally flew by, and soon I will graduate and join the Long Blue Line of USAFA alumni.” Regan concluded by stating the recent COVID-19 event has had a profound impact on the concluding activities planned for her graduating academy class. But despite becoming the first class of graduates in USAFA history that will not receive a traditional “hats in the air” ceremony, she emphasizes that she and her fellow classmates are ready to step up and join others committed to defending the nation.

We all wish Regan and her classmates Godspeed and all the best, and we are proud to have played some small part in helping them achieve their accomplishments.

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