Shane Reilly, a freshman at Gulliver Prep, has always wanted to fly planes.
His inspiration is his grandfather, Patrick Reilly, who piloted F-102 Delta Daggers during the 1960s in the U.S. Air Force and flew fighter-interceptor escort missions from Wisconsin to Homestead Air Force Base during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Together, Reilly and his grandfather have visited museums and air shows and took to the skies for plane rides when Reilly’s grandfather owned his own plane. “It’s always been my dream to go into the U.S. Air Force and become a pilot,” Reilly said.
Reilly is on the path to achieve his goal. He joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), Tamiami Composite Squadron, this past summer. For the last half-century, CAP cadet programs have provided young people between the ages of 12 and 18 the opportunity to develop leadership skills through their interest in aviation. As a CAP cadet, Reilly attends weekly squadron meetings each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Wings Over Miami Air Museum at Tamiami Airport. According to Reilly, CAP meetings may include aerospace education, leadership coaching, drill movements and physical training.
“One of the goals as a cadet with CAP is to be promoted to the next level,” said Reilly. “To rank up, you must pass tests that prove your aerospace knowledge, leadership skills and fitness.”
As cadets make progress, they have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities, including orientation flights and encampments on military bases.
Reilly and select members of his unit recently flew round-trip from Homestead to Charleston, SC aboard a military transport aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster III. The squadron spent the night aboard the USS Yorktown, stationed in Charleston, and attended lectures and classes taught by military personnel aboard the ship.
“Our squadron learned so much about the history of the USS Yorktown and Charleston, and we had a great time,” Reilly said.
Reilly has had other exhilarating experiences. When he was 12, he attended a camp at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach geared to teens aspiring to be pilots.
“I was able to pilot a Cessna 172 for four hours,” said Reilly. “It was an amazing experience.”
Reilly is also looking forward to an encampment experience in South Carolina that his CAP unit will attend with other units from the Southeast U.S. in the spring. His CAP squadron also assists at local air shows and meets with other South Florida squadrons for friendly sports and drill competitions.
When Reilly is not busy with his CAP unit activities and school studies, he plays basketball for the Gulliver and Temple Beth Am teams and is also a member of Gulliver’s Model UN.
“The Civil Air Patrol program is teaching me leadership and core values and is helping to shape and prepare me for the future,” Reilly said.
In the future, Reilly hopes to earn admission to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and after his time in the Air Force his goal is to become a private pilot.