Douglas student earns pilot’s license through Air Force scholarship

BOX ELDER, S.D. — Most high schoolers look forward to getting their drivers license but a junior at Douglas High School had his sights set a little higher this summer — like a couple thousand feet higher.

“My mom keeps telling me I’m living like Maverick from Top Gun,” said C/Capt Ray McIntosh, junior at Douglas High School.

As part of the Air Force Junior ROTC private pilot scholarship program this past summer, McIntosh can now add pilot to his resume.

“They teach you about aerospace and how to fly planes and how to talk to the tower and everything,” said McIntosh.

He maneuvered through the eight week program at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida to get his private pilot certificate.

Over 1,500 students apply and only 150 are selected. The scholarship aims to get kids involved in aviation.

“I never knew how to get into it,” said McIntosh. “I didn’t know what it took.”

“There’s a very real shortage of pilots worldwide,” said Lt. Col. (Ret) Marc Miller, senior aerospace science instructor. Miller says the industry is seeing many experienced pilots retire and requirements for more hours and experience further strain on the shortage.

Hours and experience cost big money. The average cost for a private pilot certificate is $12,000. The scholarship program is worth about $20,000 and includes some college credit.

The program is paid for by the Air Force but there is no requirement to join the military. Still, Miller says that if there’s the inclination, the opportunity is there.

McIntosh says he’d like to go to South Dakota State University and the commission into the Air Force with sights set on the F-22.

“If that doesn’t work out there are other options like highway patrol or crop-dusting,” said McIntosh.

Regardless, he says he wants to stick with it.

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