GSHS students & Aeropro to build planes from kits as part of aviation program
Gulf Shores City Schools will buy an airplane kit for its students to build and, for some students, fly in the final product at its April meeting, voting to spend about $74,000 to start and $11,300 annuallly to continue a two-year program that will completely immerse students in all things aviation.
“We started an aviation program last year where our kids after going through four different classes would be qualified to pass the written pilot’s exam,” Superintendent Matt Akin said. “We’re expanding that program this with a nonprofit called Tango Flight.” He said. “There are about 25 school systems in the country that do it.”
That cost is a one-time payment and the program continues as long as the school system wants it to continue and pays the annual costs for training and class materials at about $11,300. If Gulf Shores decides it wants out of the program Tango Flight would reimburse the city for the initial $74,000 deposit, Akin said.
“They provide all the curriculum, we’ll buy a kit from there,” Akin said. “It’s a two-man airplane (pictured). They help train our teachers and our mentors and we’re partnering with Aeropro and the airport authority. Our class will actually take place in Aeropro’s big hanger where they do maintenance of planes. It’s really exciting.”
Akin hopes the program will spur students to participate in the school’s STEM curriculum.
“For us it’s about aviation because the jobs in that industry keep growing, but also it’s about attracting kids into STEM fields,” Akin said. “It’s pretty exciting to me to be hanging out in a hangar building airplanes. You don’t get that in most places.”
According to a Powerpoint Akin presented at the April 15 meeting, the future need for aviation personnel in the coming years is staggering. It’s estimated in the next decade the industry will need 112,000 new pilots and 118,000 new aviation mechanics and technicians.
The school system is also looking for mentors to help teach in the program. Anyone interested in participating can email Akin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2016, Tango Flight has worked with educators and aviation experts across the country to develop the STEM-focused educational program. Partnering with Wichita State University and the Airbus Foundation, they created an innovative curriculum that provides students with a strong mechanical, electrical and aerospace engineering foundation.
Mobile’s B.C. Rain High School was one of the first schools to start a Tango Flight program. Students and an instructor flew the B.C. Rain plane in November and students are now working on the second one.