Aviation education to cultivate future careers | Community

Recent aviation learning opportunities for area students have sparked a conversation regarding the future of Oklahoma’s aeronautics industry. 

Oklahoma has a proud heritage of aerospace innovation. Centered on Tinker Air Force Base and home to many successful aerospace companies, the state has supported aviation innovation for more than a century, providing a wide variety of jobs to Oklahomans in all different aspects of aeronautics. As Oklahoma’s aerospace presence continues to expand, the state has placed priority on aviation education geared toward elementary, intermediate and high school aged students to provide exposure to the otherwise overlooked industry. 

A recent aviation-based education camp held at Cameron University (CU)-Duncan invited area seventh-graders to learn what the aviation industry is all about. Students who attended the five-day Soaring Aggies Flight Camp received a fully immersive learning experience, from crafting their own paper gliders and indoor hot air balloons to meeting with different types of aerospace professionals at the Duncan Municipal Airport.

With the goal of providing a traditional aviation learning experience, Duncan High School (DHS) will act as one of 57 Oklahoma high schools to implement the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) “You Can Fly” curriculum for the 2022-23 school year. 

Duncan Public Schools Superintendent Channa Byerly said the program will serve many benefits to the DHS student body.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity for our students. This will open several different career pathways in aviation,” Byerly said. “We are fortunate to be able to provide such a great course and have the opportunity to grow and develop this program.”

The four-year aviation study program allows students to either earn their pilot’s or unmanned aerial system licenses by the time they graduate high school.

To accompany the new curriculum, DHS received a virtual flight simulator in a generous donation from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, which DHS STEM Coordinator Sandy Ferguson said will be a great benefit to the students.

“While these classes will require a lot of traditional learning and studying, the flight simulator will be a great help in providing the students with a hands-on learning experience,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson said the new courses outline all aspects of the aviation industry and why each part is significant.

“When we went to the training for these courses, our eyes were opened up. I had never even thought about all of the different positions there are in aviation,” Ferguson said. “It’s not just about being a pilot or a drone operator. There are air traffic controllers, electronic technicians, engineers, safety personnel, attorneys and even more jobs that you wouldn’t ever think of … It’s so important to show our students that.”

As the instructor for the high school flight courses, Todd Ledford hopes the program can help students find their calling.

“I think this learning opportunity will help those students who haven’t quite figured out what they want to do yet,” Ledford said. “There are so many different jobs available in that industry, and I just hope that some of these kids can find something they are really interested in during this program.”

5B Aviation in Duncan recently hosted another opportunity for area students interested in aviation. 

In celebration of Oklahoma Aviation Day on Friday, Aug. 19, 5B Aviation invited the community to join them in fellowship and view their facility. A home field breakfast feed took place from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., followed by lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students and aviation enthusiasts alike got to see more of the 5B facility and hear what aviation is all about and Dandy Dans was also on scene with snow cones for kids.

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