Most high school students fresh out of school are headed to the beach, spending time with friends, and just relaxing for the summer. However, Clayton High School graduating senior Madelyn McCartney is not one of those students. She will be taking her summer to new heights; Flying planes for the U.S. Navy in an elite eight-week intense Summer Flight Academy.

McCartney applied for the U.S. Navy Summer Flight Academy partly because of her dad, who is in the U.S. Air Force.

“I have always loved the idea of flying,” says McCartney.

Madelyn McCartney
Madelyn McCartney, Clayton High School Class of 2024

McCartney participated in the U.S Navy ROTC program, but had been separated from the program for a few months when she was contacted by her instructor who told her about this eight-week summer flight program, encouraging her to apply.

The U.S. Navy Summer Flight Academy Aviation Program will be held at Delaware State University. The eight-week course, where 28 outstanding 11th and 12th graders from across the United States are selected to participate in the program, provides each student with the opportunity to earn their FAA private pilot’s license along with five college credits. The program was started in 2021 by the Commander Naval Air Forces (CNAF) in order to increase the exposure of Naval Aviation. The program includes at least 32 hours of classroom aviation academics and more than 40 hours of actual flight training.

The planes the graduates will be flying include the Vulcanair V.10 single-engine aircraft and the Piper Warrior (PA-28). In order to get her license by the end of the program, McCartney will have to fly at least 17 hours of solo flights.

“The goal of the scholarship program is to inspire and expose exceptional young talent from communities across the nation to a career path in Naval Aviation,” says Tamara Graham, Deputy Director, CNAF Flight Academy Program Manager. “Madelyn McCartney has demonstrated incredible potential, and the Navy is honored to play a part in her personal and professional journey.”

Following the Summer Flight Academy, McCartney will be headed to Pierce College in Washington state in the fall.

“I’m looking forward to all of it,” McCartney. “I’m a little nervous because I’ll be away from my family for eight weeks and I’m headed off to college shortly after I get back, so it’s a quick turnaround. But I am excited to just experience something that I have been longing for for basically my whole life.”

In the long-term, she hopes to serve her country as a reservist. She credits her mom for inspiring her.

“I’m thinking of getting my pharmacy doctorate before anything, and once I’m comfortable in a position, I will probably join the Air Force Reserves and fly for them,” said McCartney.