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AOPA curriculum takes off at Missouri high school

The Kansas City pilot community has extended a helping hand to students taking aviation classes taught by a retired airline pilot at a brand-new private school using AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM Curriculum.

Hayden White is studying aviation at St. Michael The Archangel Catholic High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and takes flying lessons in a 1947 Piper J-3 Cub. Teacher Howard Schneeberger (left) Alan Burns (second from left), the school’s development director, and White (right) accept a gift of $7,000 for the school’s aviation program from Ben Moore of the Kansas City Business Aviation Association. They hope to apply the funds to a simulator that could go in a 'fishbowl' room for easy access and display. Photos courtesy of Hayden White and Howard Schneeberger.

And when the teacher, large-jet pilot Howard Schneeberger, needs a little help grasping the nuts and bolts of general aviation, he can turn to Hayden White, a fourth-generation aviator—and one of his students—for help.

Or the class can take a quick stroll over to the municipal airport, not far from where their school, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is located.

Schneeberger, a 20,000-hour pilot who served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and as an airline pilot with TWA, retired in 2000. When the Diocese of Kansas City—St. Joseph opened the high school, grades nine through 12, in 2017, Schneeberger went back to work, happy to be teaching aviation at one of the first Catholic high schools in the country with the program, a key component of AOPA’s You Can Fly initiative dedicated to supporting and growing the pilot population.

The aviation student body consists of 11 freshmen and four “sophomores and above,” and he hopes to expand that number as the course becomes more widely available and its visibility increases.

Whether you fly airliners or a Piper J–3, as Hayden White does—he’s preparing to solo a 1947 Cub that’s been in his family since the 1960s—a pilot understands that some flight principles are better demonstrated than simply described verbally.

That consensus put teacher and student in the hunt for a simulator, with White doing some of the research firsthand last summer at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

A $12,500 price tag was attached to the model that seemed a good fit, so it appeared that the program would have to make do without for the time being.

But that timeline was moved up considerably following the announcement by the Kansas City Business Aviation Association, a group “formed to give back to the local aviation community,” that it would award the program $7,000 toward its goal. On Dec. 7, 2018, White and Schneeberger attended the group’s annual luncheon to give a presentation on the program and accept the gift.

White “spoke of how the program has had a positive impact on him,” the group said in a news release, adding that “Hayden stood in front of an array of projects created during his coursework, including a wind tunnel and vacuum chamber.” The school was chosen to be a part of the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum field test starting in the fall of 2017.

Schneeberger said he is finding that the aviation curriculum “fits in extremely well” with his teaching goals, and as the program becomes firmly established he envisions cultivating a partnership with a local career-focused technology center that complements area schools’ science, technology, engineering, and math coursework.

A good pilot stays ahead of the aircraft, and he already has a spot picked out for the simulator in one of several prominent glass-walled rooms at the school he refers to as “fishbowls” because students and staff members can observe the action taking place inside as they pass by.

Not just for its entertainment value—he knows giving the sim visibility would elevate interest in aviation studies.

“Once exposed to this stuff, they put the hook in you and you can’t get away from it,” he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: You Can Fly, Aviation Organizations, Aviation Education Programs

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