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Grant highlights SC high school drone programGrant highlights SC high school drone program

American Airlines award helps recruit studentsAmerican Airlines award helps recruit students

A grant for a Greenville Technical Charter High School drone program is the key to increasing the pilot population, said South Carolina science teacher Doug Adomatis as he accepted $8,299 from American Airlines to champion aviation to youth during a school assembly on January 22.

The 2019 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook predicts that the world will need 804,000 new civil aviation pilots and 769,000 new maintenance technicians over the next 20 years.

“If I can get a student into my class, I can make them a pilot,” said Adomatis, who uses the AOPA High School Aviation STEM curriculum to teach science concepts. During a grant application video, he “literally pulled kids out of the lunchroom” to capture their reactions after they experienced the feeling of a discovery flight using first-person view devices and a small drone. When asked if they would consider the school’s aviation program, the students in the video were enthusiastic. Adomatis plans to use the drone equipment for “exploration flights” to recruit middle school students and to set them on an aviation career pathway.

Principal Mary Nell Anthony complimented Adomatis for “teaching science through the lens of aviation” and emphasized that the school board “was very strong in support of this innovative idea.”

The high school is located on the Barton Campus of Greenville Technical College and offers an aviation maintenance apprenticeship program that allows upper class students to earn industry-recognized A&P certification credentials while receiving both high school and college credit. The partnership includes classwork and hands-on exercises for the first year, followed by a year of practical experience at the college level. Students in their second year could be making $25 an hour in a role as an entry-level A&P. An aviation technician career is attractive to local students because of Lockheed Martin’s F–16 Fighting Falcon military jet production line in Greenville County.

Carl Washburn, head of Greenville Tech’s aircraft maintenance department, said the flight and aerodynamic theory the high school uses to train students provides a valuable “head start in our aviation program.”

Brad Morrison, the manager of pilot career recruiting for American Airlines, told students they “couldn’t make a bad decision regarding aviation right now” because of dwindling pilot supply and increasing travel demand. He said career pilot candidates could expect to earn between $45,000 and $55,000 a year while gaining initial experience in the American Airlines Cadet Academy pipeline. “Literally, at 19 years old, you can teach others how to fly and make $50,000.” He said a regional jet pilot can earn about $60,000 a year—climbing to $100,000 to $110,000 over the next five years. “The numbers are astronomical by the time you are flying for a major air carrier,” Morrison noted.

Jane Dyer, a retired Federal Express captain, participated in a panel discussion. She said she experienced an early flight in a Cessna T–37 twin jet trainer, “and oh my gosh, it was the most fantastic thing ever.” Dyer was frank with the students and explained that in the late 1980s she faced gender discrimination as a young pilot but persevered. “Women can do anything and everything,” Dyer reiterated. “There’s no profession made for a certain gender, but is it going to be easy?” she asked them. “No. It takes a lot of soul-searching and training.” However, Dyer said the rewards of an aviation career “are phenomenal.”

American Airlines Cadet Ashton Lozzi began her aviation profession as a flight attendant but decided a career change was in order. The 25-year-old said, “Flying is even more fun when you’re at the controls,” and has her sights set on piloting a Boeing 777 Dreamliner. She said her male colleagues were “completely supportive,” but admitted the training was demanding and has eliminated much of her social life. “It’s the hardest thing—but you know when you can do something—so don’t talk yourself out of it,” she advised them.

In 2019, the airline awarded grants of $350,000 to 16 schools and the AOPA You Can Fly curriculum.

Adomatis complimented the AOPA aviation science curriculum that led to the grant because he said it will ultimately lead to more students in the high school’s aviation program. “Without that, we would’ve really struggled, but the curriculum was written by teachers—and for teachers—so I knew I could deliver. We’re part of the pipeline, and I can teach these kids a lot of science by teaching them about aircraft,” he said.

The You Can Fly program and the AOPA Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate.

  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students surround AOPA High School STEM curriculum science teacher Doug Adomatis during a hands-on venturi exercise in Greenville, South Carolina, January 22. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students listen during a town hall that highlighted aviation opportunities. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students Brian Williams, left, and Graham Calhoun work together during a hands-on venturi exercise utilizing the AOPA High School STEM curriculum in a class taught by Doug Adomatis in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • American Airlines Cadet Ashton Lozzi began her aviation profession as a flight attendant and switched to a role as a pilot candidate. She joined several aviation professionals during a town hall at Greenville Technical Charter High School in Greenville, South Carolina, January 22. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students participate in a town hall during an American Airlines grant presentation to fund drone equipment and exploration flights to attract prospective aviation students to the AOPA High School STEM curriculum. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Brad Morrison, the manager of pilot career recruiting for American Airlines, makes a point during a town hall and grant presentation at Greenville Technical Charter High School in South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School science teacher Doug Adomatis presents a video during an American Airlines grant presentation to fund drone equipment and exploration flights in South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School science teacher Doug Adomatis addresses a town hall after an $8,299 American Airlines grant presentation that will fund drone equipment and exploration flights to attract prospective aviation students to the aviation curriculum. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Students in Greenville Technical Charter High School, the only South Carolina high school utilizing the AOPA High School STEM curriculum, participate in a lecture by science teacher Doug Adomatis in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Triple Tree Aerodrome education director Rob Williams, left, greets Greenville Technical Charter High School science teacher Doug Adomatis, right, as coordinator for community development Cynthia Fryer and Greenville Technical College aircraft maintenance program director Carl Washburn. look on. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School science teacher Doug Adomatis accepts an $8,299 grant from Brad Morrison, the manager of pilot career recruiting for American Airlines, to fund a drone exploration flight program for youth, during a presentation in Greenville, South Carolina, January 22. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students ask questions during a town hall and American Airlines grant presentation in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Jane Dyer, a retired Federal Express captain, participated in a panel discussion at Greenville Technical Charter High School, the only South Carolina high school utilizing the AOPA High School STEM curriculum. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Retired Federal Express captain Jane Dyer talks to an AOPA High School STEM curriculum class at Greenville Technical Charter High School in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Greenville Technical Charter High School students learn about aviation principles and components. Photo by David Tulis.
David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: You Can Fly, Unmanned Aircraft, Student

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