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High school students get early access to aviation

AlphaFlight, a flight school based at the Plymouth Municipal Airport in Indiana, gives local high school juniors and seniors the chance to earn college credits and take to the skies through a two-year vocational aviation program.

  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
  • Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.
Dan Marohn, co-owner of AlphaFlight. Photo courtesy of Alpha Flight.

Since 2019, AlphaFlight, co-owned and operated by Dan Marohn and Ken Norris; the North Central CTE Cooperative; and Ivy Tech Community College have worked together to introduce teens to the myriad of career possibilities that exist in the world of aviation.

The North Central CTE Cooperative provides opportunities for students to discover career pathways through hands-on learning, postsecondary credits, industry certifications, and work-based learning.

“Having grown up in Plymouth and coming out to the airport as a young kid to learn to fly, I had nobody to help guide or mentor me,” said Marohn. “The high school aviation program is a way for me to give back and make the aviator path easier for these high school students by being able to guide and mentor them in all of the different aviation paths they may want to go into.”

The two-year program spans the entire academic year; upon completion, students will have earned 20 college credits, 10 simulator hours, and 10 flight hours—five hours per year.

The students attend daily classes at the airport from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and are required to abide by a professional dress code at the airport. In their junior year, students focus more on flight training while second-year students attend classes focused on airport management and airport operations. Ground school gets the students prepared to take the FAA private pilot knowledge test, while students also earn five hours of flight instruction in an airplane, and five hours of flight instruction in a full-motion Redbird simulator, per year.

It is completely free to students to attend the program, which includes transportation to and from the airport. Students wishing to pursue a pilot certificate during the program are responsible for the cost of the training above and beyond the five free flight hours.

“The High School Aviation program was a dream program for me to help increase the activity at the airport,” Bill Sheley, Plymouth Municipal Airport Manager, said. “The program came together much easier and in a bigger way than I thought possible due to all the people involved, the flight school AlphaFlight and the High School Administration.

“Due to the quality of the flight instruction and the aviation experience of the classroom instructors our program has grown to the largest enrollment in Indiana for CTE Aviation programs,” Sheley continued. “For the 2023-24 School year we presently have 50 students enrolled. I never thought the program would be so popular. We are at the point that we must be considering adding classroom space at the airport. I am most proud of the head start the program gives the students that go on for further training for an aviation career. My students that have gone on to the U.S. Air Force, Embry-Riddle, Liberty, and Purdue have all told us how much the program has advanced them over their fellow students.”

Student Ebert White poses next to AlphaFlight’s Cessna 172 after his first solo flight. Photo courtesy of AlphaFlight.

Last month, current second year student Ebert White had his first solo flight in AlphaFlight’s Cessna 172. White, who hopes to fly for the airlines one day, plans to earn all of his certificates and ratings at AlphaFlight. The school plans to hire him as an instructor to fly and build time.

Outside the classroom, students take part in career and technical education days where aviation industry professionals speak about their day to day and the paths that got them there. Students also participate in field trips to Grissom Air Reserve Base, where they learn about VORs and military air traffic control, and even test their skills on the National Guard obstacle course.

Many current and past students credit the program with not only making their dreams of flight a reality, but also preparing them for life in university and in the professional world.

“The experience I had at the aviation vocational program was unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” said Kavan Holm, a 2023 graduate from the program. “From getting very detailed ground schooling to learning how to how manage an airport we explored anything and everything aviation related and on top of that getting 10 hours of flight and simulator time logged into our logbooks for free.”

“This is definitely going to help me in my future endeavors as I go on to study Aviation Maintenance Management,” Holm continued. “The knowledge I will already have on my future career and more will give me a big leg up in my class.”

Marohn hopes the success of the program encourages more flight schools and school districts to develop their own programs so more students can realize their dreams of aviation.

“We encourage other flight schools in the country to reach out to us so we can help launch a curriculum and infrastructure designed for them so that they are able to provide their surrounding high school students with the opportunity to explore all of the possible careers aviation has to offer.”

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: Flight School, Student

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