Scarborough resident Caroline Benson, 16, earned her second set of solo wings. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH – At just 16 years old, Scarborough resident Caroline Benson has achieved something unique, she has piloted a plane by herself. Civil Air Patrol Cadet Captain Caroline Benson of the Portland Composite Squadron has now earned her second set of solo wings, completing her first powered solo flight in a Cessna 172 on July 19 at Portland International Jetport. Since her initial solo flight, Benson has continued her flight training through Civil Air Patrol.

“Soloing a plane was a surreal and incredible experience!” Benson said. “I was able to fly for the first time when I was 13 and had just joined Civil Air Patrol. That got me interested in flying and my interest just keeps growing. I joined CAP because the STEM and search and rescue activities looked intriguing. I learned that I could go on five free orientation airplane flights as a CAP cadet and that sounded like a great opportunity. I’ve been a member of CAP for three years now and have enjoyed every minute of it! I get to tell people I flew a plane before I ever drove a car which is pretty cool! CAP has really opened a lot of doors for me.”

In 2022, Benson attended Glider Academy through Civil Air Patrol and earned her glider solo wings at age 15. After a competitive application process, Caroline was selected for the New Jersey Wing’s Falcon Flight Academy for powered flight training in July 2023. She successfully completed the Powered Flight Academy where she was named Cadet of Distinction, a prestigious award that allows the recipient to participate in Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet Wings program which pays for the CAP cadet to get their private pilot license, an over $12,000 value.

“I started working with Cadet Captain Benson after she completed the National Flight Academy. She could not solo there due to weather and additional training needed,” said Lt. Col. Robert Plant, CAP Maine Wing director of Operations and Certified Flight Instructor (CFII). “She was Cadet of Distinction at the Academy, so I didn’t think it would be long before she was ready. During our first session, I gave her a pre-solo check ride during which she performed all of the required maneuvers with precision and within commercial standards. During our second flight together, she improved her landing procedures to the point where I endorsed her to fly solo. After a brief break, she eagerly took to the air and completed a pattern at Portland International Jetport. She is a confident and motivated, now solo pilot with Civil Air Patrol, working to get her private pilot license and beyond.”

Since joining in August 2020, Benson has progressed through the Civil Air Patrol program with distinction and a commitment to overall excellence. She is a member of the squadron’s color guard and leader of the cadet competition team. Under her leadership, the team won the 2022 Maine Wing Cadet Competition and traveled to the Northeast Region Cadet Competition where they won the Sportsmanship Award. Benson actively participates in emergency services training as a ground team search and rescue member. She earned the Amelia Earhart Award and was promoted to cadet captain in April 2023, an achievement only 3 percent of cadets nationwide achieve. Benson has been awarded the U.S. Air Force Association Cadet of the Year Award and the Civil Air Patrol Achievement Award for outstanding duty performance.

“Cadet Benson has been nothing but exemplary since joining the Portland Squadron”, said Squadron Commander Captain Dean Goodman, CAP. “She is the perfect example for the cadet program, in that if you follow the steps laid out by Civil Air Patrol you can achieve greatness. Benson has become a strong leader and role model for the cadets. I am really proud of her, and expect more great achievements to come.”

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