Flying futures: Nation’s first high school training program is here (PHOTOS)

Published 1:42 pm Thursday, May 8, 2014





By the time they graduate, Goshen High School sophomore Colton Johnson and Pike County High School sophomore Cody Henderson will have an associate’s degree and a pilot’s license to accompany their diplomas.
Pike County Schools announced the start of an aviation academy in conjunction with Mauna Loa Helicopters and Troy University during ceremonies on Thursday.
“This kind of program doesn’t exist in the area and we brought it to Troy because it was the right fit,” said Ben Fouts, president of Mauna Loa Helicopters.
That fit came from working with former Troy mayor Jimmy Lunsford and Marsha Gaylard at the Pike County Economic Development Authority, who helped Fouts navigate through the process.
The aviation program’s associate’s degree will be the second one offered in Pike County Schools. It will be free to students.
It will start in the fall with five juniors from Pike County High School and Goshen High School. The program will be open to five additional students the following year.
“We’re limiting enrollment and the reason for that is to ensure quality,” Fouts said.
Kim McCabe will be in charge of Trojan Aviation’s Troy operations. He said the goal is to see the program offered to students at all of Pike County’s high schools after the first few years.
In addition to taking flight-training courses at Troy Airport, students will take courses at Troy University in order to earn the associates degree in the two-year period.
Johnson and Henderson were selected from a long list of interested students by principals at the schools. As a preview to the fall course, students met with Mauna Loa instructors Thursday and took a flight in one of the planes they would eventually pilot.
“We were the first people in the nation to get the opportunity to do this,” said Johnson after his flight. “It’s just a great opportunity.”
Johnson learned about the program from his mother, Marla Johnson. She was all smiles as she stood with local media members to photograph her son before take-off.
“These aren’t press shots, these are mama shots,” she said.
Marla Johnson said her son has always wanted to fly.
“Hopefully, our boys will think that there is nothing they can’t do when they have landed and we see the smiles on their faces,” she said.
With plans to study aviation technology, Cody Henderson had asked his Pike High School principal for an aviation program.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation,” he said. “And this was a really good experience.”
Mark Head, administrative assistant to the superintendent of Pike County Schools, said the selection process would be very competitive and based on grades, discipline and the students’ character or potential for success.
“There will only be five students chosen,” he said. “They will have to complete an application and interview process, just as they would at the other academies.”
Mayor Jason Reeves said he was very proud of the new venture. He credited Kenny Campbell, owner of Pike Aviation, for keeping aviation alive in Troy with the airport.
“Aviation in Troy is what it is because of Mr. Campbell,” he said.
Campbell said the airport was originally built during World War II as a training facility.
“I’m pleased now that, almost 70 years later, training will be a part of the daily activities here at Troy Airport,” he said.