When was the last time you heard a middle-schooler complaining that there should have been more classes, more days, more activities? And what’s more, they observed that we shouldn’t change a thing, “it was perfect.” This summed up our first experience with an education program dedicated to aviation and targeted to a group of middle school students.
This is a brief synopsis of the program. The idea for the Summer Air Academy was incubated at AMA’s 2016 Expo in Ontario, CA. A group of AMA club members from around the country met with Gordon Schimmel, Education Outreach Specialist. The ensuing discussion was free-form investigating the range of possibilities and resources available to individual chapters in offering education programs in their respective communities. On the return flight from Ontario I digested the comprehensive discussion generated by the meeting and concluded that the Grants Pass airport offered a unique environment for a trial program.
Larry Graves is the manager of airports for Josephine County at the center of which is the city of Grants Pass. Larry is keenly interested in raising awareness about the ways in which the airport provides benefits to the broader community, including aviation education. The Rogue Valley Flyers (RVF) approached Larry with a proposal for a “beta” program that would draw upon the resources available at the airport. We realized that we not only had a group of engaged AMA members willing to support a youth education program, we had access to other organizations with similar resources. (i.e. Experimental Aircraft Association, Civil Air Patrol, operator of the FBO at the Grants Pass airport, Pacific Aviation and our local community college).
We all agreed that in pursuing a new program of this sort it would be important to “crawl before we walked.” This resulted in a syllabus for the first classes of three half-days of instruction in the classroom of the FBO. Providing hands-on experiences was essential and the AMA’s FPG-9 glider and Aero Lab training materials were very useful in introducing S.T.E.M. concepts in a fun and entertaining way. A total of 27 youngsters participated in the program over a period of two weeks in August (three half-day sessions each week.)
The value of providing the instruction at the airport was its central location to the hangars, aircraft and tools of the EAA. Through that channel the students were introduced to everything from the principles of navigation to skill sets required in riveting panels to an air frame. Another of our instructors was a former FAA air traffic controller. So, woven into the time with the EAA pilots was an introduction to the phonetic alphabet used in aviation communication. Quickly parsing around the classrooom asking each student to provide the initials of their names was filled chuckles and grins.
Our final day of the three days was devoted to a rotating training experience. We were able to draw upon the education curriculum of the CAP to introduce experiences with multi-rotor aircraft and the safety components essential to their operation. Through the support of Rogue Community College we had access to full-scale simulators and true in the hands flying. And the members of RVF provided each student with time on a buddy box flying a Carbon Z cub.
In sum the consensus was that the Summer Air Academy had been an unqualified success. As instructors we all realized that this age group will within a few years begin to consider the question of “where do I want to go with my life?” Summer Air has inserted the field of aviation into their decision process. We were complimented by the response from the students and their parents as notes of appreciation flowed into Larry’s office.
It has been fascinating to learn that out of the 14,000+ airports in the U.S. only 400+ are commercial facilities. The remaining locations support primarily general aviation. These locations undoubtedly have AMA chapters near them. The opportunity for AMA members to team up with these facilities and their resources is there for the asking. It requires planning, time and the commitment of individuals who enjoy “passing it on” to the next generation.
Grants Pass, Oregon