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National Flight Academy moving to Kershaw County
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A Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadet checks his Cessna’s instrument panel before taking off during a recent flight academy session. CAP cadets like him will go through National Flight Academy training, which is being moved from Blackstone, Va., to the Kershaw County Airport outside Camden. Cadets will be housed at Camden Military Academy during their stay this summer. (Photo provided)
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Class 42B at parade rest in front of the Southern Aviation School’s administration building at Woodward Field during World War II. For the first time since 1944, what is now known as the Kershaw County Airport will see the return of cadets -- this time trained by the Civil Air Patrol -- to its skies this summer. (Photo provided)

The National Flight Academy, a training event designed to teach Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets about powered flight, will be held outside Camden at the Kershaw County Airport for the 2019 Summer session.

According to a CAP press release, while the event has been held in Blackstone, Va., for the past 21 years, this will be a new experience for the Kershaw County Airport and Camden Military Academy (CMA), which will provide housing, meals, and classroom accommodations for participants. The close proximity of the airport to CMA means CAP cadets will experience lodging, dining, and flight training within walking distance.

Twenty-four CAP cadets ages 16 to 21 are being selected from among hundreds of applicants nationwide to re-ceive a full week of initial flight and ground instruction from qualified CAP instructors using CAP Cessna 172 aircraft. Cadets will fly early in the day, receive ground training during the heat of the day and fly again after an early dinner.

CMA Director of Admissions Casey Robinson said the 24 cadets will be on campus June 29 through July 7.

“It is truly an honor to host the CAP’s National Flight School, especially given CMA’s shared history with the Southern Aviation School,” Robinson said. The exposure for Camden and Camden Military Academy is incredible given the number of applicants to this program each year.”

The training of cadets through CAP’s National Flight Academy will return the airfield to its historic roots as a primary flight training airfield. Woodward Field, as the airport is also known, was used from 1941 to 1944 for training of the 64th Flying Training Detachment in Fairchild PT-19s, PT-17 Stearmans and P-40 Warhawks. After WWII ended, the land and barracks used by the aviation students became CMA. The academy, an all-male 7th through 12th grade academy, is also the home to the South Carolina Wing’s Camden Military Academy Cadet Squadron.

CMA Headmaster Col. Eric Boland said the school is “very excited” to host the national event.

“Being chosen to host the cadets was a natural fit given our close proximity to Woodward Field. We are looking forward to working with the CAP to make this the most successful CAP flight school ever,” Boland said.

S.C. Wing Commander Col. Lee Safley echoed that sentiment.

“The crisis of WWII was met with grit and determination by pilots training at Camden’s Woodward Field. A different homeland challenge exists now with a profound shortage of pilots for our Air Forces and for civilian aviation,” Safley said. “I am excited that Kershaw County Airport and Camden Military Academy are working with the Civil Air Patrol to help many young cadets prepare for aviation careers in the military and civilian sectors here in South Carolina.”

CAP Lt. Col. Mark Bailey, who serves as director of operations for CAP’s South Carolina Wing, has been closely involved with this training event for the past 21 years, and will serve as director of the event. He and his support staff are looking forward to the great facilities provided in Camden between the airport and CMA.

“National Flight Academy is one of the avenues CAP is using in response to the present and impending world-wide pilot shortage,” Bailey said. “Students graduating from the program will have the opportunity to train for a private pilot certificate at CAP cost under the new Cadet Wings program, thereby jump-starting an aviation career. In many ways, this is like a reincarnation of the former Civilian Pilot Training Program pre-dating WWII.”

About CAP

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. in-land search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which credits CAP with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a lead-ing role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 25,000 young people participat-ing in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit for more information.