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Student Soars to New Heights
by Jill Lufrano
Mar 04, 2012 | 1256 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Katelyn Pardue, a 16-year-old junior at North Valleys High School, was the first Nevada female JROTC cadet in five years to fly solo in a glider when she accomplished the feat on Jan. 21.
Tribune/John Byrne - Katelyn Pardue, a 16-year-old junior at North Valleys High School, was the first Nevada female JROTC cadet in five years to fly solo in a glider when she accomplished the feat on Jan. 21.
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RENO — Katelyn Pardue, 16, has accomplished much during her first year in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Cadet (JROTC) program at North Valleys High School.

Pardue participates in the elective class, run by other cadets and instructors. When she found out she could learn to fly as part of the JROTC flight program, she wasted no time getting involved.

“I wanted to try flying glider planes,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is crazy!’ I had no idea you could fly airplanes in the ROTC.”

Pardue took an orientation flight and had so much fun she wanted to continue.

George Fleck, a senior aerospace science instructor with the program and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, realized quickly that Pardue had talent.

“I watched her,” Fleck said. “When I saw her in the air by herself, I realized nobody else in a glider had the total responsibility to do it properly.”

“I was doing loops up there. It really made me nervous,” Pardue said. “I was up there doing flips and spirals. It was so cool!”

The Palomino Airport, located north of Spanish Springs, sponsors cadets to fly an orientation fight and Pardue was selected to do more training. Federal Aviation Administration-certified, retired military pilots from the Air Force donate aircraft, tow planes and their time to instruct the students.

After completing 30 flights, Pardue did what few female cadets ever attempt. The petite, soft-spoken, self-assured flyer climbed into a glider and flew solo on Jan. 21.

She is one of only nine cadets to have flown solo in a glider and is the first female student at a Nevada high school to accomplish this feat in more than five years.

Pardue received her silver wings Wednesday during an official “pin-on” ceremony at North Valleys High School, where she is a junior. Pardue’s parents pinned the wings to her lapel and she received a plaque, forever memorializing her accomplishment. The wings she was awarded are similar to the ones earned by Air Force cadets when they first fly solo, Fleck said.

Pardue said she will continue her training in the air until she earns her pilot’s license. Following her successful gliding experience, Pardue now plans to pursue an education at the Air Force Academy, she said.

“I put a lot of thought into it. I would like an opportunity to fly as a pilot,” she said. “I plan to get a medical degree and become a medic overseas. After I come home, I would like to continue flying and doing what I love.”
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