Eight students at Nenana High School are thrilled by a “Pilot” pilot program that offers them not only a chance to learn how to fly but to work toward a Private Pilots License.
“We are excited and amazed that six of the eight students have already soloed an aircraft in a program that was recently started this past August,” said Eric Gebhart, superintendent of the Nenana School District.
Support from Ryan Air and the Medallion Foundation will help teach the students safe aviation practices and guide them into the industry according to aviation industry officials.
“Medallion is about changing the safety culture at a young age as these students learn to fly promoting and educating safety first , so as they grow and advance the culture is already learned,” said Jerry Rock Executive Director of the Medallion Foundation. “We also want to promote aviation education in Interior Alaska so Medallion is providing this simulator to ensure the program’s success.”
The simulator is a Precision Flight Controls Cirrus II unit running XPlane software on two screens and is scheduled to be delivered to the school on Oct.24. The FAA authorized Aviation Training Device has all of the normal single engine Cessna, Piper and Diamond Katana aircraft.
The Nenana City Public School (K-12), located 300 miles north of Anchorage with about 115 local students and 88 students from rural Alaska, recently initiated an aviation program in August for students to learn flying skills and aircraft maintenance.
“We are only in our 3rd month of our “pilot” Private Pilot Licensing Program. Our future teacher is taking the course right alongside this first set of students,” said Gebhart.
“The program has eight students that were vetted by an application process, teacher recommendations, and completion of an Algebra I class,” said Collin Stone a teacher at the high school. “But we have had a stack of students that want to be in the program next.” This year’s program includes ground school, professional flight instruction, and basic airplane maintenance for the six girls and two boys in the program, according to Stone.
Stone started taking his instruction a month ahead of the students and is also working on his Private Pilot License, with a goal of becoming an Advanced Ground Instructor and an FAA Certified Flight Instructor.
Carol Keel and William Horn did their first solo flights on Saturday Oct. 19. Jesse Mortensen and Patricia Alexia did theirs on Sunday, Oct 20 at the Nenana airport, according to Gebhart.
While the program has only been in existence for a few months the local community and aviation industry, along with a flight school based in Fairbanks are supporting it.
“Aviation as a career path has long been a goal of the Alaska Air Carriers Association to create technical training in schools that would act as a pipeline to the airlines in Alaska,” said seasoned Alaska flight instructor Mike Morgan owner of Proflite of Alaska.
The simulator will be located at the Nenana High School and will be accessible to the flying public. Local aviator Adam White, president of the Alaska Airmen’s Association is the liaison and contact for the simulator’s use.
Nenana City School District serves 200 K-12 students at the Nenana City Public School and 700 correspondence students through the CyberLynx K-12 program, with satellite offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Wasilla. The Nenana Student Living Center is home to up to 88 high school students who come from all over Alaska to attend Nenana City Public School.
Rob Stapleton can be reached at: robstapleton(at)alaska.net