PLAINVILLE — Just two weeks after Olivia Cretella graduates from Plainville High School next week, the 17-year-old will be starting her four years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“It’s amazing, it’s not something that happens to a lot of people,” she said.
Cretella was nominated to the academy by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy in the fall and officially accepted in March.
“She’s an amazing student,” said School Superintendent Maureen Brummett. “She will serve our country extremely well.”
Cretella is not the first person in her family to serve in the military.
Her father served in the Army in active duty for two years and spent four years in the National Guard. Her grandfather was in the Air Force and served in the Vietnam War. Members of her extended family served in WWI and WWII.
“It’s in her blood,” Brummett said.
In addition to being a student liaison on the Board of Education and a student athlete, Cretella often starts her day flying a Cessna 172 out of Meriden Markham Municipal Airport.
“I do a lot of solos early in the morning,” she said.
The high school senior started flying planes at Robertson Airport when she was 15. At 16, she joined the Civil Air Patrol program at the Meriden airport.
“I think driving a car is a lot harder,” she said.
Cretella has a driver’s license and is hoping to receive her private pilot’s license after her flight test next week.
She said she is excited to join the pilots club at the academy.
The process to get into the academy was rigorous. Cretella had to submit multiple essays and receive a nomination from a state senator or congressman. Once chosen by Murphy, Cretella had to appear in front of a panel of veterans.
“The academy looks for a certain amount of college and Advanced Placement classes,” she said.
High school courses like advanced placement physics, calculus and UConn mechanical engineering were significant in securing her place. She said her high school career also helped her in the air.
“I notice all the time the similarities between the equations and what I’m learning while flying,” she said.
Math, she said, is a big component of piloting a plane.
“There’s a lot of quick calculations you need to do,” she said.
During her first solo flight, Cretella had to make some quick decisions because she initially flew too high and too fast to land the plane. She had to strategically figure out a way to land safely and correctly.
Soon she will navigate her first solo trip to Massachusetts and back.
“I really hope to have a 20-year career as a B-1 pilot,” she said. “I hope to be in for a long time.”
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