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Gilbert High senior earns pilot certification at 17

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Cadet Colonel Gibson Gallares poses with his pilot flight certification.At just 17 years old, Cadet Colonel Gibson Gallares is a graduate of the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy. The Gilbert High senior is among the selected few who have been chosen to participate in the program. He spent eight weeks in Iowa over the summer studying hard, training and learning to fly.

“I finished school on May 25 and a few days later the Air Force flew me out to Sioux Falls,” Gallares said. 

From there, he and other participants were taken to a nearby community college to settle in on campus and begin their studies. They read books and did training modules for six to seven hours a day. 

“I got through the first chapter, and I thought, “Man, this is a lot.” It’s stressful, but well worth it,” he said.

The program welcomes high school and college students from all over the country who are part of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). The Flight Academy, a partnership between the Air Force and the aerospace industry, aims to inspire students to pursue careers in aviation to help address the national pilot shortage. Prior to joining the program, Cadet Colonel Gallares had very little experience flying a plane. 

“I’ve flown with my friend once or twice before, but it really wasn’t anything like it was there,” he said. 

In order to complete the program, Cadet Colonel Gallares had to fly at least 45 hours. His first ten flights were with an instructor, and then he had the opportunity to do his first solo flight.

“It’s the popular thing. You fly around, you do pattern work, you land and then they cut your shirt,” he said. 

Cadet Colonel Gallares really enjoyed learning about the science of flying and being in the aircraft brought his studies to life.

“You hear about it, you visualize it, and then you actually feel it. It’s pretty fun,” he said. 

After completing his hours and passing the written test, Cadet Colonel Gallares received his Private Pilot’s Certification, allowing him to fly some aircraft. Now that he’s back in the Valley, he hopes to get approval from Chandler Municipal Airport to fly planes there. 

“Once I get checked out at Chandler, I want to fly my family and take some people up from this program [at Gilbert High], so I can get them interested in aviation and they can do the exact same thing that I did,” he said. 

Cadet Colonel Gallares credits the Gilbert High JROTC program with helping him to develop into the leader that he is today. Through the program, he says that he’s formed friendships that can never be broken.

“It’s crazy the amount of friends that I’ve made here, and the amount of leadership and life skills that I’ve learned. All the things that you should know going into the future once you get out of high school, like how you should act and what you should do,” he said.

His goals for the future include applying for the US Air Force Academy and eventually becoming a fighter pilot. 


To learn more about Gilbert High and the JROTC program, schedule a school tour or enroll today!

Written by Kailey Latham, Photo: GHS