FLINT — Twenty-eight students from the Genesee Career Institute could be part of a new crop of aviators to stem the shortage of pilots that has been experienced by the military and commercial airlines in the past couple of years.
Crosswinds Aviation, the newest business to take up residence at Bishop International Airport, is partnering with GCI to offer a high school flight program to Genesee County students. The first group of students began classes Sept. 9.
The students receive an introduction to many aspects of the industry along with 10 hours of free simulator time and computer-based ground training.
Diana Allard, director of career and technical education at GCI, said a community organization, Michigan Takes Flight, approached GCI three years ago to see whether students might have an interest in careers in aviation. GCI administrators began looking at how they could operate such a program and found Crosswinds Aviation.
“Our county collects career data from students looking back at what grade 8 through 11 students had picked for career assessment,” Allard said. “We had enough students interested in aviation and aeronautics that we felt we’d be able to get a good population out of it. We’re looking for a base number of 15 to 20 students to start a class, then we take the time to build awareness and let people know the program exists.”
GCI Principal Deborah Davis said students are recommended for the program by their home school, and students have a variety of reasons for their interest in the program. A few of the students also are in the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program and are bound for the military, while others are college bound or exploring different careers.
Students in the first flight school class are from Atherton, Bendle, Bentley, Fenton, Flushing, Genesee Christian, Genesee Early College, Goodrich, Grand Blanc, Lake Fenton, Linden, Mount Morris, Swartz Creek and Powers high schools.
“We’re delighted to be able to offer this program to Genesee County and the students so they can explore a career in aviation,” Davis said. “Our understanding is there are lots and lots of possibilities in the field. There are many opportunities and high demand for people in the aviation field.”
Allard said the GCI held an open house so parents could come in and ask questions about the program and to discuss what students would need to be successful in the program, including being interested in science concepts, math and working handson. Allard said GCI is a two-year program, and when students begin their second year, they have good data on where their interests lie. At that point, they can do some fine tuning for interest in other areas of aviation beyond being a pilot, such as air traffic controller, aeronautical engineering, aviation safety inspector or aeronautics technician.
“Usually about 50 percent of the students actually pursue aviation careers,” said Matt Dahline, who owns and operates Crosswinds with his wife, Andrea. “Many of them wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to aviation.”
The pair have two other business and flight school locations in Livingston and Howell.
The course is two semesters, and the class is held the last two hours of the school day. According to the Crosswinds Aviation website, the program allows students to save up to $22,000 in getting a Private Pilot License, helps them earn college credit, fast tracks them into collegiate aviation programs and can help them get hired by airlines up to a year earlier.
Allard said there is no cost to the students for the flight school program or for any of the more than 30 programs GCI offers. Other programs include agriculture, food and natural resources; veterinary medicine; construction trades; electrical wiring; computer-aided design; digital media arts; visual digital communications; teach, lead, coach; risk management and insurance; medical career foundations, nursing, health science specialty CNA; allied health professionals; emergency medical concepts; emergency medical technician; sports medicine; forensic science; medical assistant; culinary essentials; cosmetology; computer hardware technician; computer hardware networking and support; intro to 3D game programming; web design programming and animation; public safety and homeland security; welding; computerized numerical control machining; building wealth; engineering; STEM advanced studies; STEM technologies; automotive technology; medium/heavy duty technician; and U.S. Army JROTC.
Davis said the GCI will host an open house for prospective students for the 2020-21 school year on Jan. 30 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Mailings will go out to all Genesee County ninth- and 10th-graders inviting them to come and learn about the different programs offered.