Last week I was driving home from the airport licking my wounds about having endured all the last-minute scheduling and changes regarding the remodeling and expansion of our EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center, otherwise know as the “EAA Hangar.”
It’s easy to get caught up with impatience and frustration having spent the better part of the summer at the hangar; I was a bit tired. It was a well conducted pity party going on as I drove down the road. There was no major single issue or any one person to blame; it was just the normal series of events that occur when you have many different pieces coming together on a construction project.
I should have known better. Everyone was going out of their way to make it all work and trying their best to get things done. But I was really into the pity party until it struck me.
Twenty years ago, I developed an aviation/aerospace program at Lake Placid High School and always had a dream that some day it would be at the Sebring airport and involve our school youth.
In six days, there will three school busses full of students from Avon Park, Sebring, and Lake Placid high schools arriving through Gate 24 at the EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center to take classes in aviation/aerospace and advanced manufacturing. Wow, we did it, and the dream was coming true. What in the world did I have to be stressed about? Absolutely nothing!
Our vision of creating “Options and Opportunities” for our youth continues to grow. I was recently asked to make a presentation at the Gaetz Aerospace Institute (GAI) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona. My presentation was “How to Build a Community Youth Aviation Education Program.” There were many high schools that are a part of the GAI/ ERAU program, but they still wanted to know how we have been able to build such a grassroots program here in little ol’ Highlands County. We have something special going on here and others are taking notice.
On Monday, Aug. 12, there will be many parents around the county breathing a sigh of relief as their children head off to the first day of school. Teachers and school staff will be taking a deep breath as they welcome back their charges for another year of exploring and learning. I’ll be part of a small team waiting to see the buses roll through Gate 24 and begin the journey of exploring aviation and aerospace with 38 high school students.
Being at the airport and not in a high school building classroom provides us so many more dynamic opportunities to learn. Having to pause what you are saying to the group while a private jet roars down the runway outside the hangar adds something special to an aviation class. The sights, smells and activities of normal airport operations is the pulse that keeps beating. You teach a concept and then just look out the hangar door and see it in action. It’s pure magic.
In addition to what we are doing in our own facility, students will be able to explore the other aviation businesses at the airport. There is an airframe and powerplant FAA certified repair facility right next door. A few doors down is Lockwood Aviation, home of the Lockwood AirCam and a Rotax Engine Service Center. Tecnam, an Italian company that is the world’s largest producer of piston-powered aircraft, has their North American headquarters a few more doors down, and there is also Duc, an aircraft propeller manufacturer on the flightline. What a location to be able to teach aviation and aerospace.
We are so grateful for the Sebring Regional Airport to be such a supportive partner of our program. It would not have happened without their support.
So, when you see those yellow school buses on the road next Monday morning, you might just see one of the three headed to the airport bringing students to explore their “Options and Opportunities” Aviation and Aerospace.
John Rousch is a pilot and the Young Eagles coordinator for EAA Chapter 1240 in Sebring. He can be reached at 863-273-0522 or by email at email@example.com.