The Air Force Academy in Colorado returns to Willcox this week, with cadets and officers staging their glider flying training at Cochise County Airport west of town.

No doubt, many area residents saw the bright yellow gliders and the mustard-colored tow planes in the skies near the airport at about this time last year.

It is the Air Force Academy's 94th Flying Training Squadron (FTS), one of several flying units at the academy that specializes in glider training and competition, said Major Steve Strasbaugh.

The 94th FTS is bringing 16 officers and civilians, 33 cadets and six aircraft to Willcox, from March 24 through 31.

The Academy has rooms reserved at a local hotel, according to Louise Walden with the Cochise County Airport.

The dates the 94th FTS will be in Arizona coincide with spring break at the Air Force Academy, Strasbaugh said.

The cadets are giving up their spring break for the opportunity to focus “solely on aviation, without having to juggle airmanship and flight operations with a full schedule of classes, military training, and athletics,” he said.

“For the eight days of flying, the cadets will focus on enhancing semester-long upgrade training for certification as soaring instructor pilots,” Strasbaugh added.

“People are welcome to come out to the airport to watch,” Walden told the Range News.

The 94th FTS conducts more than 15,000 training and competition glider sorties annually, focused on developing officership, leadership and character in more than 4,000 Air Force Academy cadets, Strasbaugh said.

It operates airmanship training at the Air Force's busiest day Visual Flight Rules-only airfield to provide the maximum opportunity for cadet participation in an Air Force operational environment, and motivating them toward careers as officers.

Currently, 500 cadets per year take a basic solo course in sailplanes and many upgrade to become instructor pilots to teach airmanship to other cadets, he said.

The cadet instructor force consists of 106 sailplane instructor pilots.

The 94th FTS currently has 22 sailplanes and five tow aircraft, Strasbaugh said.

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