Greencastle-Antrim senior will soar toward goal of being a pilot at Air Force Academy

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

When Aidan Blankenship was in first grade, he drew a picture of an airplane and wrote: “I want to join the Air Force so I can fly planes” on the paper.

The drawing recently surfaced in his room, and last week the Greencastle-Antrim High School senior learned he’s achieved that long-held goal with an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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He was nominated by U.S. Rep. Dr. John Joyce, R-13, whose district includes Franklin County and who announced the appointment in what he termed a “sneak attack” on Wednesday, March 8.

U.S Congressman Dr. John Joyce, right, joined Greencastle-Antrim High School’s Aidan Blankenship and his parents, Susan and Shane Blankenship, at the Greencastle Lions Club Pancake Day Saturday, March 11, to help celebrate the senior’s appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Joyce called Principal Mike McManus and had him interrupt Aidan’s engineering design class. On speaker phone, the congressman said, “Aidan, you have been accepted to the United States Air Force Academy.” Whistles and cheers from classmates greeted the news, and Joyce ended the call by encouraging Aidan to “step out in the hall and call your mom.”

Aidan is the son of Susan and Shane Blankenship. On Saturday, Joyce and his constituent services director Nancy Bull celebrated with the family, Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. and his wife, Tina, and Dr. Lura Hanks, Greencastle-Antrim School District superintendent, at the Greencastle Lions Club Pancake Day.

“I was very surprised, I didn’t expect to hear until late March or early April,” said Aidan, who will report to the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 28.

Aidan Blankenship, a Greencastle-Antrim High School senior, will report to the U.S. Air Force Academy in June.

He’s excited about the opportunity to get a world-class education, serve his country and fly planes. Being an Air Force pilot requires a 10-year commitment. He plans to make the Air Force his career and is considering aeronautical engineering as a major.

A member of the National Honor Society at G-A High School, he runs cross country and is a track and field hurdler and sprinter who plans to try the long jump this year.

“The military’s always interested me,” Aidan said. “I got big into military history a few years ago.”

He pursued that interest to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle as a camper, volunteer and intern. Aidan attended the Soldier Experience summer camp five years ago and progressed to a squad leader, mentoring campers to help develop their leadership skills.

For his internship, he researched another pilot, Eddie Rickenbacher, the World War I “American Ace of Aces,” for the center’s Soldier Stories feature.

Joyce said Aidan’s appointment speaks to the quality of the Greencastle-Antrim education system and the commitment of his parents.

Aidan is the ninth student from his district to be among “the next military leaders to keep our country safe” in this appointment cycle, Joyce said.

Joyce said he keeps politics out of the process by relying on a panel of military graduates who create a slate of candidates that he nominates for the service academies. Information about how to apply is available via his website.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at