Flight Academy Teaches Students Life Lessons

Patrick Johnson

Lots of camp options for kids out there this summer but there's a unique one in West Michigan that's turning inner city kids into pilots. It's called the West Michigan Flight Academy but it's not your typical flight school. A bunch of middle-school students in Muskegon are learning life's lessons in the sky.

It's much smaller than the average classroom, but it's more unique, where the students are in the driver's seat learning to think in the air.

"Don't freak out, stay focused and don't give up your dreams."

Good advice from new pilot, and 7th grader Sam Cassidy who started flying at an early age.

"I went parasailing and I loved it, and then I realized I like heights so I decided, what the heck go for it, and then I loved it."

The camp, funded by after school programs and donations, is all part of founder Patrick Johnson's dream that took off three years ago.

"We learn about planes, we learn how to fly them and how to control them," said Cassidy.

But this class is about more than aviation.

"The idea is to really get them excited about learning, and we use aviation as the carrot if you will, and then along with flight comes math and science," said Patrick Johnson, founder of West Michigan Flight Academy.

Students learn about latitude and longitude and use it all in the sky with an instructor as the co-pilot. It costs about $1,200 scholarship dollars to send each of the kids from all over Michigan to flight school for two weeks, but the education is priceless.

"We get to actually do it, not just sit there and watch," said 12 year old Erick Harris.

"I didn't think I had the confidence to do it," said 11 year old Morgan Griffin.

They hit 3,000 feet in the air, along the West Michigan coast. It's beautiful, but it can get a little bumpy. The students keep their cool, remembering some of the most important things they learned on the ground. "I went in there and i wasn't afraid and that's all i really wanted to do," said Griffin.

The flight school ends Friday, and organizers hope they'll get enough funding next year to reach even more kids and have more classes.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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