The Walker County Center of Technology's aviation program continues to grow — all in an effort to encourage careers in the industry.
Twelve students from Cordova, Dora, Oakman, Carbon Hill and Jasper High schools are enrolled in the program that is taught this year by Dr. Scott Parvin.
Parvin has worked over a decade in the Walker County Schools system as a science teacher and says he was approached by Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood to teach the aviation program, due to his background in studying flight.
The aviation program at WCCT is open to sophomores through seniors to study a number of topics, such as pilot training, scientific principals and the history of flight, Unmanned Aircraft Systems and other skills. Students have access to a flight simulator at WCCT and are working with micro-controllers to construct aviation weather stations.
While the majority of coursework is in the classroom, students also take field trips and make occasional visits to Sanders Aviation.
"We're lucky to have Sanders close enough by that's so willing to work with these students and provide stuff that we can't provide," Parvin said.
Sanders Aviation originally partnered with WCCT to create the aviation program and would send instructors to the center of technology to teach lessons. Now, Parvin is teaching aviation full-time at WCCT while Sanders Aviation still remains involved, especially for hands-on opportunities and to provide guest lecturers.
"We are extremely grateful for the Sanders contribution," WCCT Director Chris McCullar said. "They've got a passion for pilots and for flying, and they want it to continue. We're really glad to still be partners with them."
The WCCT aviation program provides students with the fundamentals and scientific study of flight and prepares them to attend further flight training after high school.
One senior WCCT aviation student is even preparing for his first solo flight next year.
Parvin said training future pilots is essential since many are needed to fill vacant positions.
"In aviation, you've got a bunch of pilots that are in the baby boomer population, and they are aging out now, and we just don't have enough people coming in the field to fill their shoes," he said. "There's a big shortage of pilots, and it's only going to get worse."
According to a recent article published by the Denver Post, 200,000 new pilots will be needed in North America over the next 20 years.
WCCT has one of less than five high school aviation programs in the state of Alabama.
Parvin said a group of ninth-graders recently toured WCCT and many are interested in aviation studies, which means the program should only continue to grow.
McCullar and Parvin are also looking at other aviation curriculums to strengthen the center of technology's current offerings.
"It's growing. It's a work in progress, but I think it's going to give them some great opportunities," Parvin said.