MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — The University of West Florida is hosting The U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy this week bringing in students from all over the country to take flight at Peter Prince airport in Milton. 

“I’m learning things and then I’m using them in the cockpit,” said high school junior, Abby Paige of White House Tennessee. “It’s just crazy to think about.”

In just eight weeks, students as young as 17 who have successfully completed the course will leave with their private pilot certifications and receive college credits.  

“To go from not knowing how to even drive very well probably, to flying an airplane and having that certification is just great,” said Jeff Dahlgren, Vice President of AMS Vali, and retired Army Aviator.   

The course is a partnership between UWF and AMS Flight school as a collaborative effort with the Air Force to address the national pilot shortage  

“Over the past few years everyone knows about fuel prices, it’s become way more expensive to fly, so the number of people pursuing pilots licenses has been declining,” said Bill Huth, distinguished University of West Florida professor and licensed pilot and instructor. “The Airforce has recognized that, they’re actually in discussion with the Navy now to start similar programs, and reaching out to the high schools to encourage kids to get interested in aviation.” 

The students will even complete several duel and solo cross-country flights, for a total of 10 hours of cross country flying.

“I just flew over the beach when I flew and it was super pretty, so I’m really excited to plan the course out and follow the map and figure out where I’m going and meet the requirements,” said Page. “So lots to be excited about.”

The completion of the course is something not every high school student can say they’ve accomplished. 

“Now they’re going to go on to school, to college, a university, maybe to an academy and they’re going to do well in there because now they’ve done something that’s very hard and they know they can be successful,” said Dahlgren. “It breeds confidence.”