Tuesday, April 15, 2014

REACH FOR THE SKY By Barney Ballard

Creative, employment-ready educational opportunities for students in our remote area are a must, and it truly takes a village to get these opportunities off the ground.  In the fall of 2013, twelve students from the Forrest Bird Charter School and Sandpoint High School have been working together in the inaugural year of the High School Aerospace Program.  The main goal of this unique program is to provide a well-structured, comprehensive and cost-effective course of study for local area high school students to investigate and experience potential careers in the aerospace industry, interfacing with regional colleges and aerospace businesses.

The program’s fall 2013 course, Survey of Aerospace Careers, was led by local aviators and aerospace professionals Ken Larson, Randy McLain, Hunter Horvath, and Andy Berrey.  The current trimester at FBCS offers an introduction to aircraft maintenance under the guidance of Jason Hauck, a certified A&P mechanic. For the fall 2014 trimester, Tamarack Air engineer Steve Babin has offered to teach an introduction to aerospace engineering.  To facilitate those students wishing to attain a Sport Pilot license, Granite Aviation has provided a model aircraft, the Tecnam P92 Eaglet, for flight lessons. The membership of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1441 has also given generously of their time and money to support the efforts of this program.

Joining in on our exciting education-in-aerospace efforts, North Idaho College has initiated a composite program at the CDA airport with forty students enrolled in the first year of this industry specific college level certification process.  Boeing has stamped its seal of approval on this NIC course, certifying that students who complete this program have achieved an initial level of competence for job opportunities.

Bonner, Boundary and Kootenai counties are the hotbed of aviation activity in Idaho, and there is no better time than now to offer our local students an outstanding opportunity to get a leg-up on a growing industry – right in their own hometowns.

Next month: The impact of P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) for the students of North Idaho.