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AFA cadets aloft once again

October 31, 2013 Updated: November 1, 2013 at 5:29 am
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Cadets at the Air Force Academy are back in the air after a monthlong grounding of flight programs driven by the partial government shutdown and red tape.

The academy said in a statement that it has entered a period of retraining after three contracts were reinstated this week to keep its airfield running.

"The 306th Flying Training Group flight program has received the funding needed to fund operations for all of FY14," the academy statement said.

The academy didn't have an exact number of employees who suffered through the monthlong layoff but identified workers for a weather forecasting contractor, a fuel contractor and maintenance contractor Doss Aviation as those affected.

While government workers who were furloughed during the shutdown that hit Oct. 1 received back pay, contract workers got no similar guarantee.

Contracts for flightline work lapsed at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, and the Air Force didn't renew them during the shutdown.

At the same time, the Air Force suspended many flying operations around the globe and at the academy as part of the shutdown.

The biggest of the airfield contracts at the academy is held by Doss, which signed an $8.5 million deal to service the academy's fleet of planes in 2011. The firm had 75 employees working at the academy.

The fuel services contract, held by Colorado Springs-based Aleut, is worth $515,000, the academy said.

The weather contract, held by Oklahoma-based Atmospheric Technology Services, is worth $530,000.

The bulk of the academy's 4,000 cadets participate in its flying programs, which include training in parachuting, glider flight and powered flight.

The programs are designed to familiarize cadets with how flying units operate in the Air Force and give them their first taste of life in a cockpit.

The programs also give older cadets opportunities to lead.

Cadets run the glider and parachute programs, providing the bulk of instruction.

The academy said a key factor in restarting the program is to ensure the layoff didn't dull flight skills.

"Our goal is to come out of this layoff in a safe manner," the academy said.

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