Oak Lawn teen pilot to lobby Congress for CAP funding
Flying. It’s all he’s wanted to do since he was 5 years old.
“I was born to be a pilot,” Michael Carpenter said.
He joined the Civil Air Patrol when he was only 13. The first time he flew a plane without an instructor, he was 16. And by 17, he had received his private pilot certificate after years of dreaming, months of preparing, hours of studying.
Now Carpenter, a senior at Oak Lawn High School, is not only a pilot but a cadet commander with the Civil Air Patrol. And on Feb. 27, he will go before Congress in Washington, D.C., to represent CAP and lobby for funding for the organization.
He is one of four individuals from Illinois selected to speak. To be considered, Carpenter had to submit a memorandum and an essay. He hopes to share his experiences with CAP with Congress.
The Civil Air Patrol is the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary of citizen volunteers, which performs disaster and emergency response. It handles 90 percent of inland search-and-rescue missions, according to the CAP website.
The CAP national headquarters will provide talking points and a training seminar for participants. Carpenter will get to speak to U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).
Carpenter hopes to learn more about politics, but more importantly, he wants to express his concern.
“If we don’t secure funding for the future, then the next generation won’t have the same experiences I had,” he said.
Carpenter has had the opportunity to participate in a search-and-rescue mission, to work with high-quality aviation equipment in Colorado, and to fly as high as 10,000 feet. But his proudest achievements were receiving his private pilot certificate and becoming cadet commander.
With his certificate, he can fly passengers in a small, single-engine, high-wing plane. He’s flown to Schaumburg, Terre Haute, Ind., and Benton Harbor, Mich.
In 2011, he was cadet commander of the year. He enjoys managing his squad.
“I care about my cadets, and teaching them makes me a better leader,” he said.
In addition to his aviation achievements, Carpenter is an honor student, a peer mediator, a lifeguard for the Oak Lawn Park District and a swimming instructor.
His mother Diane Carpenter, 41, is very proud of him.
“He’s always been a good kid, but I never thought he’d accomplish so much at a young age,” she said.
After high school, he plans to continue on to college at either Quincy University or Western Michigan University. He hopes to teach the next generation of pilots and transition from flying small aircraft such as go-jets to flying for a major airline.
He aspires to fly international routes one day. Joining the military is also an option.
Of course, no matter what he does or where he goes, flying will be part of it.
His grandfather used to take him to air shows when he was a kid, and he’s been hooked since.
“Flying is freedom,” he said. “Nothing more I like than jet noise.”