About 80 students from Brooks Middle School in Wichita spent Thursday at the National Center for Aviation Training for the conclusion of a program called Flying Challenge.
Students took turns taking flights in Cessna 172s, participating in robotics and aircraft paint labs, and watching radio-controlled aircraft.
“It was definitely an adventure,” said eighth-grader Taylor Garcia, who had never been up in a small plane before. Now, “I want to learn how to fly a plane.”
Elizabeth Osborne, 13, agreed.
“No roller coaster can do that,” Osborne said smiling.
The students were nervous before their flights, said Brooks teacher Vanessa Hinds, who accompanied the students to NCAT.
“They asked a lot of questions in the briefing,” before the flight, Hinds said.
The day at NCAT was “way cooler than any field trip I’ve ever been on,” she said.
The flights were provided by Kansas State University-Salina certified flight instructors. K-State brought nine airplanes to Jabara Airport for the flights.
The Flying Challenge is a mentoring program coordinated by the United Way of the Plains and sponsored by Airbus Corporate Foundation.
Fifty Wichita Airbus engineers served as mentors to students through the year.
The purpose of Flying Challenge is to introduce students to aviation as a career and to motivate them to earn better grades and be better students, said Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas.
Launched in September, the program matched Airbus engineers or Wichita State University engineering students with students at Brooks Middle School, a magnet school for technology and arts.
Students got to see how professionals apply math and science in their jobs through a series of tours, field trips and hands-on experiences. They also met weekly with mentors at the school.
They attended a kickoff at Exploration Place in September, and had a tour of the labs at the National Institute for Aviation Research and attended a career day to learn about aviation careers.
The program has spurred students’ interest in aviation, Hinds said.
“It exposes them to new things we wouldn’t be able to show them or teach them in the classroom,” she said.
Stacie Morris said her son, Deandre Morris, has gained self confidence through the program.
It’s also increased his ability to relate to other students in a small group.
He’s also able to take a concept like flight, break it down and understand it, Morris said.
“He’s able to tell us and have us understand what he’s learned,” she said.
Airbus Corporate Foundation sponsored its first Flying Challenge program in Toulouse, France, last year. It granted up to $250,000 to the United Way of the Plains to run the program in Wichita.
It’s the first Flying Challenge program in the U.S.