main flightline photo

A Mom’s view of her son preparing to land.

Erin was a bit tense, trying not to show it, but her body posture, obvious uncomfortableness with the situation, was showing. Buckling in and not saying much and trying to project enthusiasm and understanding of the young person sitting to her left who was handling a multitude of dials and switches, listening and talking on the radio, was a bit overwhelming.

Erin Halpern was not just any new passenger taking her first flight in a light aircraft, she was being flown by her son Luke who had just earned his pilot’s license two weeks before. It was a flight of firsts, Luke’s first passenger and his mom’s first flight in a Cessna 172. As the flight progressed, she relaxed, talked more on the intercom, and indicated that it “wasn’t so bad after all”. Flying over Lake Placid and other well know parts of the county helped ease the concern as her focus was more of what the new low altitude view contained. Flights before this for Erin were the typical commercial flights at 30,000+ feet wedged in three across, and if you were lucky looking out a small window.

Today’s view was very different, a first-class seat up front, although there were no beverages or pretzels served. There were plenty of smiles and pride.

I have seen many of our young students take their first flights, and at times I had the privilege of being their pilot. I have seen many go on to become a pilot themselves and or develop a career in aviation and aerospace. The personal satisfaction I have being a part of this, is confirmation that in some small way I have made a difference in a young person’s life. That is what we as teachers are attempting to do every day.

“Firsts” are special. Sometimes it involves a nation such as when Neil Armstrong took “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” when he was the first person to step on the surface of the moon. Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic nonstop in the “Spirit of St. Louis” aircraft. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. Last week’s Space X heavy lift vehicle launching a payload into space and having the three rocket boosters returning to earth and landing upright automatically was a significant first as the private non-government space industry proved a more economical system to launch things into space.

Each of us have our own firsts. We remember them, we celebrate them, they mark our path through life, and they give us the confidence to continue keep doing new things and finding a new “first”. Sometimes we have a first by choice, sometimes they are thrust upon us. Most are positive and a few from time to time are not so pleasant, but we always learn something to take forward.

Last week I shared some of the history and current developments of our aviation/aerospace curriculum in our county. Back in 1999 there was not an aviation curriculum in our county schools, and we developed the first one. It was the foundation of many more firsts to come individually for our students and our school district, and the “firsts” continue to happen. Six years ago, we built the EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center (ADC) where many new adventures began. More of our community became a part of what we are doing with our youth programs and creating “Options and Opportunities” for our student’s future. The ADC was the first dedicated place for our community to come and participate in hands-on aviation activities for both young and old.

Next school year we are creating another first as our three high schools will have students coming to the ADC to take part in a dynamic hands-on program in aviation and aerospace. We have sought out community and corporate support to raise the funding to make it possible. We continue to solicit the support. Instead of just asking for funds like many do in a campaign, we have specific elements and things that need to be acquired to complete the expansion of the building and the program. These items may include extra folding chairs and tables, LED lighting, an additional refrigerator, counter tops and cabinets, etc. When a person comes to the ADC, they can see what their support produced. If you want to see a list of things you can “adopt/sponsor”, let me know and I’ll send you the list.

We are making a difference in our youth and families of the community, and we are very grateful of the support we receive, and we say thank you! If you want to learn more about our program and the continuation of developing “firsts”, contact John Rousch at , call or text 863-273-0522.


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