Two of Enid’s public school districts are set to join the fast-growing formation of schools in Oklahoma teaching students the ins and outs of aviation.

This fall, Enid High School and Chisholm Public Schools both will begin to offer STEM curriculum created by the international Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

The “You Can Fly” programs will be the first to be offered at Northwest Oklahoma schools focused on flying, aircraft, aerospace engineering, drone operation and aviation careers.

The AOPA and both districts’ school administrators and board members had approved the curriculum plans over the last several months.

Courses would be hands-on, project-based classes, with materials being provided by Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

Due to grants to the AOPA, the curriculum is free for schools, which can offer one to four years teaching pathways for either or both pilot and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Teachers at Chisholm and Enid say they also intend to involve the Enid area community through field trips to nearby airports, museums and Vance Air Force Base.

Chisholm plans to offer two sections at the high school and one at the middle school next year, with at most 24 students per class, said instructor Travis Buford, science teacher at Chisholm High School.

“It just makes so much sense,” Buford said about the district’s new program. “We are an aviation town. Kids can stand there and hear a jet go by every few minutes, so it makes it real to them.”

At Enid High School, teacher Jason Crowley will lead a full day of courses, with three or four sections of aviation 1 and two or three of aviation 2, said Kristen Jones, Enid’s district curriculum director.

Crowley has had a quick lift-off working for the district. He took on the aviation program in March, after having been hired a year and a half ago for Enid Public Schools’ maintenance department. He currently teaches computer and physical education.

Crowley served in the military for 23 years, specializing in the functions and upkeep of aircrafts used for mission flights.

“We’re gonna hit the ground running this next year,” he said Wednesday. “It’s gonna be full-speed, but I’m used to full-speed, so that doesn’t bother me.”

Enid is building an on-campus flight simulator lab with chair and desk simulators, as well as virtual reality simulators.

Jones and Crowley were spending the day looking at empty rooms in the high school for where to house the lab — it has to be the right location with the right internet connection and enough electricity, Jones said.

All of the grant-funded equipment won’t be in the building until this summer, she said.

“When you’re starting from the ground up, you’ve got to start with blank,” Jones said.

Buford said because of the high number of new programs set for next year, AOPA will hold its July teacher professional development in Oklahoma for the first time.

Twice as many high schools will be starting aviation programs this fall using the “You Can Fly” high school curriculum, according to the state.

During the 2022-23 school year, 51 secondary schools throughout the state are set to offer the AOPA aviation curriculum, compared with 28 this year, said Paula Kedy, with the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

Kedy began the state’s first AOPA school program while working for Ada Public Schools in 2017.

“Schools are really welcoming this opportunity, and they understand that aviation is Oklahoma’s second-leading industry,” behind oil and gas, Kedy said.

Schools can write grants to support curriculum to the OAC, but Kedy said the 51 schools, without applying, also can now receive additional grants the commission is getting from the FAA.

Buford said supplies will cost between $1,000 to $1,500 for Chisholm’s first year, but supplies are covered for the first year thanks to the FAA grant.

He said he’s also applying for more grants to cover extra supplies such as simulators and drones.

Chisholm’s Board of Education approved the high school’s curriculum earlier this month after Buford had visited with members, school administrators and the CPS Foundation, said Danielle Deterding, president of Chisholm’s school board and a foundation member.

Deterding said she was surprised the program hadn’t already been done years ago. Her husband’s family is full of licensed pilots, but her three sons hadn’t shown interest in learning how to fly a plane.

“It’s just because they’ve never had an opportunity,” Deterding said, “and I think (this program) is going to help not only my children, but give all the children in the community the valuable learning opportunity as a possible career.

“I think this program is really gonna take off.”

Enid publicly announced its new program on May 22, just a week before new legislation allowing Oklahoma schools’ aviation programs to move beyond electives has gotten final clearance for takeoff.

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday signed into law a bill giving the state Board of Education the power to declare any aviation courses eligible for non-elective credit for graduation requirements.

Kedy, with the AOC, said what became Senate Bill 1147 had been several years in the works, only hampered by delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new law takes effect July 1, after which aviation courses could be considered eligible for a high school student’s core classes, Kedy said.

“If Paula was in 10th grade at Ada High School and only has two electives, and Paula plays basketball and performing arts, she can’t take aviation,” she said. “The barriers were pretty big, and if we want our kids to take STEM pathways, we have to make them available to them, so we’re elated (about SB 1147).”

The AOPA developed the curriculum after noticing an aging workforce and barriers to entry.

According to AOPA, the number of pilot certificates issued by the Federal Aviation Administration has declined by over 60% since 1980. However, 763,000 pilots will be needed in the world by 2039, according to Boeing.

Enid’s local community also has thrown its full support behind the new programs, Kedy said.

“They really want this to be something positive for Enid Public Schools and Chisholm Public Schools, and to me, that’s a win-win for your area,” she said.

EPS had created an aviation advisory committee, whose members from community organizations, businesses and other entities first met in April, Jones said.

These include Autry Technology Center Superintendent/CEO Dwight Hughes and communications director Mandy Mayberry, Enid Woodring Regional Airport Director Keston Cook, Frank Hooper from Civil Air Patrol, Enid’s Messer Bowers insurance, and retired and active-duty representatives from the Air Force Association and Vance Air Force Base.

Autry already offers a full-time program on aviation maintenance (available only to adults), which began this school year in a newly purchased and renovated building near the main campus.

EPS’ three middle schools have been offering flight and space courses as an introduction to aerospace education during the current school year.

Jones said the high school courses would serve as both a continuation from middle school and an introduction to flight if students missed it in middle school.

She said when students finish AOPA program at the high school, they’d be able to take the FAA’s written certifications for certified pilots and drone pilots. With those two certifications, they’d only need supervised flight hours and could have a private license just out of high school.

If students don’t want to fly, about 75% of the jobs at nearby Tinker AFB are non-flight positions, Jones said.

Buford, a retired Air Force C-130 navigator and a licensed pilot, also said a third of all Air Force pilots train at Vance Air Force Base, where all of the aircraft maintenance is done by civilians.

Vance, in Enid since the 1950s, is one of the city’s largest employers.

Enid has been an aviation hub since its early days, Buford added.

While living in Enid, aviation pioneer Clyde Cessna developed and tested his airplanes over 100 years ago at nearby Great Salt Plains, before eventually moving to Kansas to continue his work.

“This isn’t theory. It’s real,” Buford said. “In ‘X’ number of years in the future, come see Enid, because we ‘speak aviation.’”

Article by: Alexander Ewald, Enid News & Eagle 4.30.22