Hazel Mae Carter of Park Rapids experienced her first two flights in the front seat of an aircraft Saturday, Aug. 24 at Casselton Robert Miller Regional Airport in Mapleton, N.D.

She’s been a Cadet Airman Basic in the Civil Air Patrol since she turned 12 in June. That’s the minimum age to belong to the U.S. Air Force auxiliary devoted to teaching leadership, search and rescue, communications and aviation skills.

With her at the airfield were other members of the Bemidji-based Northern Composite Squadron, including her older siblings Samuel, 14, and Maggie Kay, 13 – all children of Jonathan and Julia Carter.

Hazel Mae’s flights were shorter and she didn’t go as high as the other cadets, due to a fast approaching weather system.

“I went up about 1,500 feet,” she said, “because we had some thunderheads that came up really fast as soon as we got there.”

Hazel Mae also happens to be smaller than the other cadets who flew that day.

“They actually had to stick a three-pound lead weight in there, along with a 33-pound seat,” she recalled. “And since I was so short, they had to stick a pillow in there so I could see out.”

What scenery she saw, she described as looking “toy-sized.”

Towed up in the air by a Cessna 172 Skylark, Hazel Mae couldn’t reach the tow rope to release the glider. Fortunately, she wasn’t flying solo.

“I had a pilot in the back,” she said. “The first time, I wasn’t sure how I’d react, because I’ve never been in an airplane. So I said, ‘Let’s do it really slow and even.’ So, he did that, and I didn’t feel sick or anything.”

For her second flight, they tried climbing and diving, so “you felt like you were weightless,” and doing some turns “that made me feel like I was upside down,” she said.

She was surprised by how quiet it was in the glider, until she stuck her hand out the window to funnel some cooler air inside. “It cools off really quick when you do that,” she said.

Hazel Mae struggled to find anything to compare the experience to. “It was really fun,” she said. “If they had it again, I’d certainly go.”

According to Maggie Kay, CAP cadets get to ride in the front seat of a glider four times a year.

“Then you get to ride in the front seat of an airplane three times,” said Julia. “When you join, that’s your list. In the backseat, you get unlimited flights.”

Since the Bemidji squadron has its own plane and hangar, she said, “they’re able to be really hands-on. I’ve been really impressed, the last three months, with the goals that they’ve set.”

Goals for CAP cadets include physical training, such as running a mile, and putting together their own uniforms.

“They do it all themselves,” said Julia. “For a mother, it’s really inspiring to see your kids meet those goals.”

Samuel noted that if you reach a certain level in the CAP, you become a cadet officer – which converts to a higher pay grade and your first stripe upon joining the military. Cadets can also earn a solo glider license at age 14 and an airplane pilot’s license at 16.

Sam and Maggie Kay have only been in the CAP a month longer than Hazel Mae, but the CAP bee has been in the Carter family’s bonnet for several years.

“He has wanted to do this since he was 10 years old,” Julia said about Sam. “It took us a while, because it is in Bemidji, which means transporting the kids back and forth. Finally, this year, we decided we’re just going to go ahead and do it. It’s been a really positive thing for them.”

Meantime, family friend Keith Crook took Sam up in an airplane on his 12th birthday.

“I think I was one of the early ones who encouraged him by giving him some books and materials on becoming a pilot,” said Crook, a licensed pilot.

It’s too early to tell whether the CAP will lead any of the Carter kids to an aviation career or military service.

“I would like to do it for a hobby at least,” said Sam, while Maggie Kay seems to like the leadership part of the air patrol experience. Both older siblings also mentioned search and rescue training as one of the reasons they joined the CAP.

As a bonus, the Bemidji squadron has given them a chance to spend more time with their grandfather, Gerald Allen, who drives them both ways each week and serves as a chaperone.

“You can’t beat it, when you’re with your grandkids,” said Allen. He described his three cadets as smart, intelligent, fast and strong.

The Northland Composite Squadron squadron meets 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Bemidji Airport. Anyone age 12-100 interested in learning about aerospace education or search and rescue, and adults willing to share their flying skills, knowledge and experience, should contact 2nd Lt. Phyleasha Grauman at capbemidji@gmail.com or 218-760-5387.