Kent School District program provides flight instruction and seat time to students now at Crest Airport

Kentwood junior Chase Kappe wants to fly a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II for the Air Force.

A recently-formed partnership between the Kent School District and Crest Airport, which is just south of Covingtin, allows for students like Kappe, whose career aspirations are up in the clouds, to participate an aviation program right in their own backyard.

According to Rikki Birge, the airport manager, the ground school pogrom is designed to prepare students for the written test for a private pilot license. Among the curriculum is aviation concepts such as drag, the different types of turns as well as the various controls and meters on a dashboard.

Birge stated that the program’s values lies in its practical lessons and use when pursuing careers in aviation.

“It gets these kids excited,” she said. “This is real world training. They need to have more schools doing things like this, things students can do in the real world. There’s a big benefit to this class.”

Also new to the program is David Lehman, the chief instructor, who worked at the Federal Aviation Agency in Renton for 27 years. He said the class will take trips to places such as SeaTac Airport, Seattle Radar and the Museum of Flight in order to get a better understanding of how aircrafts operate.

“The students come in with almost zero knowledge,” Lehman said. “We want to expose them to all the facets of aviation.”

As part of the year-long program, the students have classroom instruction as well as a total of eight hours in an airplane, four actually flying it and four observing another student. The airport has 11 airplanes available for the class to use. The students will also go to Green River Community College to use the flight simulator nicknamed “Red Bird.”

The class is made up of students from throughout the Kent School District, including Kentridge senior Conner Adams, who learned about the program while working at SeaTac.

Adams, who is interested in obtaining a commercial flying license, said at first the actual flying was somewhat nerve-wracking.

“At the beginning, I didn’t like it because I’’m afraid of heights,” Adams said. “But it went away and became a lot of fun. Somehow (when you’re) in the sky the perspective’s different.”

The class has already completed the first takeoff, which Adams and Kappe described as less stressful.

“My instructor just told me to keep my eyes on the runway and when to take off,” Adams said. “It was otherwise silent (in the cockpit).”

Kappe said, “At first it was like, ‘Whoa, I’m actually flying this.”

The program cost for students is $300.

Birge stated the aviation program used to be conducted through Northwest Aviation College, located at Auburn Municipal Airport, but it closed in March.

Crest Airport also has an FAA approved flight school which covers material from a private pilot’s license to certified flight instructor. With 325 aircraft, Birge said it is one of the busiest private airports in the state.



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