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A famous Beach Boys song says to “Be true to your school now/ And let your colors fly.” One pilot friend is doing that—and he’s helping to keep General Aviation alive at the same time. If you’ve ever felt that perhaps now is the time for you to do something to give back to general aviation, here’s the perfect way for any pilot, anywhere to get involved. Please post a comment and let me and others know how you’ve gotten involved—or plan to get involved—to help keep General Aviation healthy and growing.
Ron Carmichael, a good friend and active pilot just sent me photos and details of the first high school field trip...
that he organized to the Reid-Hillview Airport. Ron loves flying and is active in EAA Chapter 62. I wrote back and asked him about the goals he had in mind when he set up the visit.
"The first objective in my mind was to get the neighbors to look at the local airport, Reid Hillview, as a nearby resource for students—not just a place where wealthy aviators ‘play’ with their ‘toys’. As a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I see Monterey high school student volunteers whose biology teachers take them scuba diving. I said to myself, ‘why not have high school students in San Jose use our airport resource when they are so close?’ Second was that with my background as a science teacher, I felt I could reach the students via their science teachers. I always used flight as a ‘vehicle’ for motivating my students to learn Newton’s Laws of Forces/Motion and I thought he/she would like this approach. It seemed to work. Last, I am heading up our Chapter’s effort to get applications for Air Academy [an aviation summer camp for young people 12-18] at AirVenture 2009 for high school students and this was my final objective."
Organizing the Field Trip
Ron started the entire process by contacting the local high school’s Career Guidance Center and asked for a referral to the science department. This led him to Lance Howard, a science teacher who could see how aviation could be used as a motivational tool for his students. The process started with presentations in the science classroom two weeks ago, where Ron got lots of his EAA pilot friends involved.
"Members of EAA62 accepted Lance’s invitation to visit his classes in early March. Andy Werback, current Chapter president—working on his second Lancair in Craig Victory’s hanger—brought slides of his project and spoke. Russ Todd (CFI) brought his R/C electric model and we demonstrated its wind generation—in the classroom! As Young Eagles Coordinator this year, Russ also introduced the classes to the opportunity to get a free flight under that program.
"Terry Gorman spoke about ‘women in aviation’ and I spoke and showed slides on AirVenture and Air Academy. Lance proceeded to ask if he could bring classes for a Field Trip. An Industrial Arts teacher also came into the picture and is now excited about G.A. He brought a class to RHV with Lance’s class."
Last week, Ron gave Lance his first ride in a light aircraft and this week the first group of 22 students walked a mile from the school to visit the airport for more than 4 hours. Stops in the tour included:
- Aerodynamic Aviation (formerly the Amelia Reid flight school), where 21 year old CFI Jarod Flohr—who aspires to be an air show pilot—gave a presentation. He was assisted by his friend Jenni, who recently graduated from the San Jose State University Aviation Department
- Another flight school, Nice Air, where CFI Phil Ody removed the cowling to show off an engine on a twin and let the students sit in a 172.
- The control tower, where groups of 11 people at a time spent 45 minutes enjoying the view and learning about air traffic control. Afterwards, they hung out near the flight line and listened in on handhelds to the airport communications.
- The terminal building where each group got an overview of SJC, RHV and PAO airports via large overhead photos on the wall and received an abbreviated ground school.
- Victory Hanger, to see airplanes being built by EAA members.
- The Airport Shoppe which sells books and pilot supplies.
Ron reported that the students seemed interested in everything. The teachers seemed to really like the tower tour. One was amazed that tower personnel get 26 days of paid vacation a year—especially considering that teachers get 2 months off in the summer without pay. Safety was emphasized as a number one priority in aviation. Making students aware of the hazards of propellers was given special emphasis!
Planning the Visit
I asked asked Ron about the logistics required and things that readers may need to consider when they set up a visit to their local airport. First, the Airport Director required that the group have additional insurance. This was secured through the EAA’s national risk management department, though due to an illness in the department, the documents didn’t come through literally until an hour before the start of the 9:30AM field trip. Requests should be made at least 30 days ahead if possible. Ron described other issues.
"A major challenge initially was getting flight schools lined up with a CFI to lead. This was made delightfully easy when Hiro (owner of Nice Air) and Zdravko Podalski (owner of Aerodynamic Aviation) gave their wholehearted support right away. Next came the task of getting Airport Operations to put their stamp on our travel to the tower. Chris Nucci, head of Ops, made this delightfully easy. Finally, time coordination was a real puzzle, since I had originally planned on dividing a group of 60 into smaller groups staffed with a parent/teacher chaperone and EAA62 member with cell phone communication.
"I was expecting 60 students but we got 22, as a result of budget cuts to East Side Union H.S. District, which cut out substitute teacher availability. I believe it worked out for the better, since I would have needed a much stricter time schedule for each group, but with only 22, I could leave the time to change locations on the airport much more based on hearing from my EAA62 contact within each group. When the groups were ready, we rotated them from the Tower/Terminal area, through the two Flight Schools and then to Craig Victory’s (ATP) Hangar to see Craig’s YAK aircraft and Andy’s Lancair being built."
General Aviation 2.0
Ron is now considering replicating the airport field trip with a couple of other local high schools. One thing he plans to change is to add a snack break in the middle of the tour. If you’d like to ask him for more details about how to set up a visit, feel free to post a comment to this article.
To keep General Aviation robust and growing, we all need to actively recruit the next generation. Think about ways that you might set up a classroom presentation or a field trip to your local airport and then start planning it now. After all, as the song says, “Rah rah rah be true to your school!"