Young pilots take flight in aviation camp

Marquan Williams with a plane he just finished piloting during the ACE Academy at Smith Reynolds Airport.

Young pilots take flight in aviation camp
June 30
04:35 2016

Photo by Todd Luck



Middle school students got to pilot planes on their final day of the Jim Shaw Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy at Smith Reynolds Airport on Friday, June 24.

ACE Academy introduced middle school students last week and high school students this week to career possibilities in aviation. Airport Commissioner Jim Shaw started the local academy six years ago. It’s one of several aviation summer camps held around the state, sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Aviation.

“It’s amazing to see some of these kids get out of the plane smiling and happy,” said Shaw.

Last week, 24 students participated in a variety of activities before piloting a single engine plane with a certified flight instructor from Piedmont Flight Training. They made model airplanes, launched miniature rockets and practiced in a flight simulator. They flew in a hot air balloon at Ibraham Elementary School, where ACE instructor Tony Colburn teaches aeronautics.  They learned about a variety of jobs in the aviation field beyond being a pilot and even got a lesson in financial planning from Piedmont Advantage Credit Union, which is one of the camp’s sponsors. Sponsors help keep the tuition of the local camp the lowest in the state.

Among the young participants was Will Brinker, 11, who is a rising sixth grader at Jefferson Middle School.

“I’ve always dreamed about flying, and I think that’s pretty much every kid’s dream,” he said.

He said he’s always wanted to be a pilot, and that the camp has encouraged him to pursue his dream. He said being in a cockpit was an amazing experience.

“I felt kind of free, actually,” He said. ” I felt like I was loose from the ground.”

Marquan Williams, 13, a rising eighth grader from Atlanta, Ga., also participated in the camp. He’s in town visiting his grandmother, who suggested he try the camp.

Marquan said being a pilot was also among his possible career aspirations, and that this experience made him feel like it was achievable.

“It was fun,” said Williams. “It was one of the best experiences of my life. It inspired me a lot.”

Pilots are in high demand right now since U.S. airlines are experiencing pilot shortages. Boeing estimates it’ll take 95,000 new pilots to meet the demand of airlines in North America over the next 20 years.

Those looking for training in aviation jobs beyond piloting may have reason to return to Smith Reynolds Airport in the future. The Forsyth Technical Community College bond being considered by county commissioners for the November ballot includes hanger and classroom space at the airport for a new program that will prepare students to work on the mechanical structure of airplanes. North State Aviation, a Smith Reynolds tenant that works on Boeing planes, has had difficulty finding college FAA certified employees.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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