Aspen High School, one of more than 160 schools across the country currently teaching AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum, is going one step further. In an effort to offer practical experience and inspire even more students to pursue jobs in aviation, the Aspen Flight Academy, Aspen Education Foundation, Aspen School District, and The BettyFlies Foundation have teamed up to provide a free flight lesson to every Aspen High School student. The “Every Student Flies” program will share the freedom of flight with 556 young adults and is made possible by funds donated to each of the nonprofits. The money raised helps cover the training aircraft, simulators, and any other operating costs associated with Every Student Flies.
The largest contribution came from The BettyFlies Foundation, which donated $100,000 to the academy. Suzanne Pfister, president of The BettyFlies Foundation, believes the Every Student Flies program could make a real difference in the life of these young students. Pfister’s nonprofit foundation exists to provide opportunities for youth in memory of her mother—Aspen aviatrix hero Betty Haas Pfister. “Betty was a trailblazer in the true sense of the word,” said Pfister. “She was a flight enthusiast who thought outside the box in all her endeavors.”
Each student—even those not enrolled in the high school aviation curriculum—will be offered a free flight lesson with a certificated flight instructor in a Diamond DA40 aircraft. Following the flight lesson, students will be given a tour of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport’s air traffic control tower, and tours of businesses on the airfield. Students also will be provided information about how to further pursue opportunities and careers within the aviation industry.
Spearheading the program is Michael Pearce, a Boeing 777 international captain for American Airlines and president of the Aspen Flight Academy’s board of directors. “We are excited to launch this one-of-a-kind opportunity to offer every Aspen High School student the chance to experience flight and learn about careers in aviation,” said Pearce.
A 10-year and approximately $11 million agreement between Aspen Flight Academy and Diamond Aircraft CEO Scott McFadzean also will help make this endeavor possible. Two DA40-NG airplanes will be provided each year to the academy for a 10 year period.
Kate Short, a CFI with multiengine and instrument ratings, has her hands full. Not only does she teach AOPA’s aviation STEM curriculum at Aspen High School, she is also the director of aviation for the Aspen School District and is managing the Every Student Flies program. “This program is unique in that we are able to offer these experiences to public high school students at no cost to their families,” said Short. “In addition to the free flight, we offer three aviation courses at Aspen High School to provide interested students even greater knowledge towards a future career in aviation.”