The first group of 21 students enrolled in an introduction to aviation program run by Howell, Mich.-based Crosswinds Aviation, Howell High School, and the local EAA Young Eagles chapter finished their studies on Jan. 17.
The program was designed to get students more interested in aviation careers and learning to fly, said Matt Dahline, owner of Crosswinds Aviation. “We have 13 students already enrolled for the spring semester,” he said. “Of the 21 students, two have started flight training and another three said they will get [their] private pilot certificate with us before going to college.”
Dahline said the two biggest things he’s learned from the program is getting buy-in from the school superintendent and showing students the advantage to getting their pilot certificate before going to college.
“At the end of the day, you have to have support at the top. The only reason why we were successful is because we worked directly with the school superintendent,” said Dahline. “You need that support for a lot of things, including finding a teacher, making class space available, and getting the class on the school schedule.”
Learning to fly from schools like Crosswind Aviation before going to college gives students a big advantage because it costs less than collegiate programs, said Dahline. His company works with colleges including Western Michigan University and Northwestern Michigan College.
“It’s a recruiting advantage for students to have their certificate before going to college, because it shows initiative and commitment,” said Dahline. “Western Michigan, University, they can be fast-tracked into IFR training their freshman year.”
One change Dahline says will be different in the spring semester is focusing on students who are interested in becoming pilots. “We’ve gotten feedback from the students, who this semester spent one day a week at our flight school. They want more time outside the classroom and at the airport for more hands-on experience,” he said.
“In the longer term, we want to create a prerequisite class to help students determine if they want to become pilots,” said Dahline. “The class, for juniors, will introduce them to all industries within aviation, including mechanics, pilots, and air traffic controllers.”
Admitting that some students might face financial barriers, Dahline said he wants to create a scholarship program to help.
Dahline credits local press for getting the word out about the program. “We’ve had a radio interview and around five newspaper articles on the program since it started. It’s given us a lot of visibility.”