AUGUSTA — Sweat beading on his brow as he stood in the sun on the tarmac at the Augusta State Airport, Chris Trotter could not have been happier.

The 16-year-old had just completed a low pass over the airport and then did 90 percent of the work of landing a Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft — one of 10 belonging to the Civil Air Patrol.

With about four hours of flight time under his belt by Tuesday morning, Trotter, of New Brunswick, N.J., was on pace to solo in one of the those planes by today, the close of the Civil Air Patrol’s intense Northeast Region Flight Academy, in Augusta.

“I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was born,” he said.

If he’s as successful as he and instructors anticipate, he will be able to pilot a plane alone before he can drive a car.

He turns 17 on Independence Day and is scheduled for his driving test July 5 in New Jersey, he said.

Trotter, his 17 classmates in Augusta and 72 other cadets in flight academies across the United States were chosen from among 2,000 applicants, said Col. Dan LeClair, Maine Wing Commander and flight academy director. It’s the third year for the Augusta-based flight academy.

The cadets — all of whom aspire to be either military or commercial airline pilots — came to Augusta from as far away as San Diego and Puerto Rico to take 30 hours of ground instruction and 10 hours of flight instruction from the 12 volunteer pilots.

“The cadets specifically ask to attend the Maine flight academy even though there are ones closer because they either have come before and enjoyed their visit to Maine or have heard how nice it is to fly here and want to have that experience,” Leclair said.

While the 10 Civil Air Patrol planes are berthed each night in Augusta, the colorful, red, white and blue craft take off and land frequently at airports in Waterville, Norridgewock, Wiscasset, Lewiston-Auburn and Brunswick all week.

“It’s always exciting when they’re first landing,” Leclair said, watching one plane take off while another prepared to land.

As Trotter did a low pass, four other cadets in dark T-shirts and khaki pants clambered over a plane, doing a preflight check.

“Ignition switch off,” read Thomas Ferris, 16, of Monroe, Conn.

Michael Chung, 16, of San Diego, sat at the controls, confirming the checks. He had already soloed in a glider back in California.

“It’s a little quieter and a little slower,” he said. “The closest word I can use to describe it is magical.”

Assisting Trotter and Chung were Eamonn Fitzpatrick, 17, of Lumberton, N.J., and Trevor Zukowski, 16, of Macon, Ga.

“This is heaven, and if you love to fly, this is where you need to be,” Zukowski said.

The cadets live at Camp Keyes during the training where graduation ceremonies are set for today.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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