The roar of the engine. The careful calculations on the map. Triple checking the Florida weather conditions in the early morning light. The excitement builds as she gets ready for her favorite part: the take-off.

Hours and hours of practice time later, Leander High School senior Rebekah Hui is one of 120 Air Force ROTC cadets to receive a pilot license. The program began this summer in Florida, where Hui trained for two and a half months to fly low-performance aircraft.

“My instructor thought that I should apply for the program,” Hui said. “After he told me about it, I started doing research. I really didn’t think that it was a possibility at all.”

In order to be accepted into the program, Hui had to prove her academic mettle. “I had to study for a test that consisted of math, graphing and aviation,” she said. “To be honest, it was really confusing and I no idea what I was studying.”

Originally on the waitlist, the senior was surprised when she found out that she was accepted into the program. More than 750 cadets from around the world applied for the program, but only 120 where selected for the academy by way of a $20,000 scholarship.  

At the flight academy, Hui had a rigorous schedule to follow, waking up at four in the morning. Flying lessons began at 6 a.m., followed by ground training, where the cadets learned everything from weather to the mechanics of their planes.

“I definitely learned a lot about myself and my studying habits and skills,” she said. “I also learned the importance of understanding something rather than learning for the test. I couldn’t just cram study things and understand it while I was in the plane. At that point, it was a matter of if you can fly the plane and actually know what’s really happening.”