By Jim Roberts
At the age of 17, Cadence Bomgardner has an aviation résumé that would make some folks green with envy. Private pilot with an instrument rating? Check. Partner in an aircraft rental company? Check. Opportunity for a type rating in the Cirrus SF-50 Vision Jet? Check. And that’s just the beginning.
From the day an 11-year-old Cadence looked out the window of a Cessna 182 and the flying bug bit, until earning a private pilot certificate on her 17th birthday and instrument rating seven months later, it’s been a whirlwind ride. And there’s no let-up in sight.
Cadence credits her grandfather, Lowell Camp, with inspiring her love of aviation. He flew C-47s across “The Hump” of the Himalayan mountains in World War II, and was later a flight instructor at Redbird Airport (now Dallas Executive Airport). At 15, she recalls, “I took a Young Eagles flight with Dallas-Fort Worth EAA Chapter 34 in an RV-12, and that’s when my flame for aviation got rekindled. It was one of the best days of my life.”
Cadence got heavily involved as a volunteer with Chapter 34, and was mentored by chapter member David Clark as she studied for the private pilot knowledge exam, which she passed in January 2021. When it came time for flying lessons, the one thing she knew: “I didn’t want my parents to ever have to pay for my flight training.”
Enter the EAA Ray Aviation Scholarship, which she was awarded in March 2021. That award, along with a second scholarship from the Make A Pilot Foundation, fully funded her training.
After a summer of flight training, the date for her checkride was set for her 17th birthday in October 2021. Then the day before, she learned a scheduling glitch had left her without a designated pilot examiner. Undaunted, she began calling every DPE in the area. Working her way down the alphabet, she struck gold with Jake Huffman, a former B-52 pilot Cadence remembers as “a very thorough examiner.” After a four-hour oral test and two-hour practical test, the certificate was hers.
To fund further flight training, she and her father set up an aircraft rental LLC. Armed with a 21-page business plan, she recruited four investors to supplement her life savings and purchased a Cherokee 140, which today is available to rent from their company, Cadenza Aviation. Though her father’s name was required to start the business, he insists that everything to do with the airplane is her responsibility, and her name will go on company papers when she turns 18.
Buoyed by her success in the aircraft rental business, Cadence earned her instrument rating in May 2022. And through her part-time job at Ambassador Jet Center at Dallas Executive Airport, she met a local dental surgeon with a Cirrus SR-22T and a spring 2023 delivery position on an SF-50 Vision Jet. With offices in several states and in need of a second pilot, he’s offered her a type-rating in the jet. She observes, “I’ll have to do that during spring break, since I’ll be a senior and I can’t miss school.”
Cadence plans to earn her commercial pilot certificate before then. She flew to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh with a friend and will hit 250 flying hours on her way home. The goal is to earn the commercial certificate on her 18th birthday and take the CFI checkride the next day.
Besides piloting an aircraft, Cadence enjoys maintaining them. “I want enough knowledge to work on my own plane. Overseen by an A&P mechanic, I had to re-plumb the entire pitot-static system on the Cherokee, because I was the only one who could actually sit up under the panel.” Would she ever consider building an airplane? “Yes … oh, my goodness … I like the RVs. Maybe the RV-15 … that would be very cool.”
As for long-range goals, college is in her future. “Whenever I see the F-35s go by, I think Air Force. It would be amazing to fly fighters. And Patty Wagstaff is my idol. I’d love to join the air show circuit.” To that end, she’s begun training in a Super Decathlon and hopes to compete in IAC events soon.
She also wants to someday sponsor a learn-to-fly scholarship program, since “I see my friends who are not able to achieve their flying goals because of a lack of funds.” Her advice to others who yearn for the sky? “EAA is the reason I’ve been able to do this. If you’re lucky enough to have a chapter nearby, become as involved as you can.”