EDWARDS AFB – The Aero Club at Edwards Air Force Base offered its new Aero Camp this week (July 22-26), for students, ages 14 to 19, to start flight and ground school training. Though students cannot fly solo until they are 16, Connie Farmer, Aero Club manager, said the Aero Club wants to encourage kids to get interested in flying early on.
“My daughter started flight training at nine because that’s when her feet were able to hit the pedals,” said Farmer. “What we’re doing here in Aero Camp is trying to get younger people involved in aviation.”
She added that the material covered in Aero Camp will provide the participants with the same training that they would receive as a student pilot. Not only are the participating teens getting a head start on flight training, they are saving a lot of money by learning in a group setting. What would normally cost around $4,500 is only $1,500 through Edwards Aero Club.
During camp each student is provided with a home study ground school kit. Upon completion of the kit, students can be signed off by their instructor to take the written exam.
The camp can accommodate six students, allowing three to ride in each aircraft, a Cessna 172 and a Cessna 182. All of the students will fly one hour each day, ending the week with five hours of flight time logged.
The idea for an Aero Camp originally came from assistant chief flight instructor, Silke Eyles, who also developed the course materials. “It was a joint effort,” said Eyles. She said that the materials are modified from the private pilot curriculum that the club uses. The camp curriculum will start with basic altitude training and then cover maneuvers and end with take-offs and landings.
“We’re hoping that everybody is as enthusiastic as we are, so that if it’s a success, it’s hopefully going to be a fixed institution for the Aero Club,” said Eyles. The goal is to offer the camp twice a year during summer and winter break.
Lt. Col. Fred Bivetto, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School instructor, is volunteering his time to help with the first camp. Bivetto encouraged students to “stick with it,” even if they’re nervous about flying. During the pre-flight check, he explained how the airplane functions using changes in pressure to create lift. Students got a chance to see how the wings operate and to check for loose components to ensure a safe flight.
Ryan, an Aero Camper, said “I like the Aero Camp because the instructor is right there helping you all the way through the camp. I would recommend this camp to everyone that would like to fly because the instructors are so hands on.”
“I think anybody who is a flight instructor is passionate about getting, especially youth, interested in flying because then you can get them interested in mathematics-, science- and engineering-related career fields,” said Bivetto, “It’s a really great opportunity for education and their career fields; I feel really strongly about that.”
And his student, Michelle, agrees. “I like that we can fly planes and practice maneuvers for long periods of time,” said Michelle, “This will help me in my career path because I want to become an airline pilot.”
According to Farmer, the original Aero Club was started after WWII by Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay found that a lot of his mechanics and pilots were taking WWII vintage airplanes that were no longer being used and fixing parts so that they could have something to fly. Ten years later, the Edwards Aero Club started in 1958.
“The planes change, the instructors come and go, but even now I get memos from people who say ‘oh my dad soloed in that airplane’ or ‘my dad or grandpa was a member of the Aero Club way back when,'” said Farmer. “It’s really cool to know there’s so much history behind the club.”
The club is not only recreational. Farmer said the group offers training for any rating that can be obtained in a single engine airplane.
“We teach with the aircraft that we have,” said Farmer, “We do all the single engine ratings for the FAA private instrument, commercial airline transport pilot, certified flight instructor and CFI instrument.”
“After funds were cut from tuition assistance, we had to kind of think outside the box to try to get new customers in and that was when Eyles and I started talking about camps,” said Farmer, “We do a flying companion seminar for spouses that don’t fly so they can be informed passengers. We do instrument refresher courses for people who have their instrument ratings, but can’t stay as current as they’d like to. We also provide a class for contractors, and now we have Aero Camp.”
For more information about the Aero Camp and other flying opportunities at the Aero Club, call 661-275- AERO.