Aviation students continue to reap the benefits of a partnership between Sanders Aviation and the Walker County Center of Technology.
Students enrolled in WCCT's aviation program visited Sanders Aviation at the Walker County Airport in Jasper on Friday to see planes firsthand, use a flight simulator, and learn from industry professionals.
"They've been looking forward to it for several weeks since they've known we were coming out here. It's good for them to get out and see some of the opportunities that they can reach out here," WCCT aviation instructor Dr. Scott Parvin said. "That really goes into the great advantage of having a partner like Sanders Aviation that's willing to take some of their time and some of their resources to help our students. It's a great situation."
Jessica Sanders Walker, chief operations officer for Sanders Aviation, taught students some flight lessons on Friday in a classroom on-site and later took them outside to see an aircraft up close and learn its components.
"They get the real-time experience of seeing the windsocks, seeing the runway, getting to see the pattern being flown, getting to fly the Redbird simulator, and actually getting to see what happens when you pull back on the yoke — the components of the airplane," Walker said. "Those are things that we're excited about because not many other people have the ability to go out and be able to do something like that."
Parvin added, "You can't speak enough for how much that motivates these kids when they get to come out here and see it's real. It's not something in a textbook. What they're doing is priceless."
The aviation students also had two special guest lecturers at the center of technology last week.
Lt. Cmdr. Grant Jarvis, a United States fighter pilot, spoke to students, and WBRC meteorologist and flight instructor J-P Dice also visited students to talk about the importance of monitoring weather conditions in relation to flight.
"Coming from Walker County, a lot of these students have not traveled, haven't been out, so when we can bring the guest lecturers to them, especially ones that are from small towns all over the country ... it's huge," Walker said.
"They've enjoyed everyone that has spoken to them," Parvin said. "It's different perspectives and different career pathways that they can learn about and prepare for."
WCCT's aviation program began in January 2018 and is made possible through the partnership with Sanders Aviation flight school. Parvin was hired this school year to teach aviation courses at the center of technology, while Sanders Aviation helps to provide guest lecturers and hands-on opportunities for students.
The program ultimately gives students the fundamental knowledge of flight and prepares them to enroll in flight school post-graduation.
Walker said one WCCT aviation student has since graduated from Carbon Hill High School and is enrolled in Auburn University's flight school.
As the program grows, the center of technology will eventually be able to provide three years of aviation training for interested high school students.
Parvin recently attended a high school aviation and STEM conference provided by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The conference allowed him to meet other high school aviation instructors from across the country and to learn about a curriculum that can be incorporated into the WCCT aviation program.
He will undergo training to start implementing the curriculum during the next school year.
Currently, 12 students from Cordova, Dora, Oakman, Carbon Hill and Jasper High schools are enrolled in the center of technology's program.
"I'm excited. We're headed in the right direction, and we're recruiting," Parvin said. "We want to bring in another cohort of students for next year's program, and I know it's a pun, but the sky's the limit."
A video of students touring Sanders Aviation can be found on the Daily Mountain Eagle Facebook page.