Flagler County, FL – School is out and summer is in full swing for kids across the nation. Parents are dropping off eager children at summer camps, ready to reconnect with friends and engage in a variety of activities.
For just under a dozen lucky kids in Flagler County, though an accelerated course with Ric Lehman, executive director of Teens-In-Flight, it’s a chance for them to work their way up to a pilot’s license.
The first week of intensive classwork had aspiring pilots digging into the nuts and bolts of the aviation industry, for the initial segment, before a week off. Students will return for a second full week of classwork, and at the end, be ready to take the FAA test according to Lehman.
“They should be able to take the FAA written exam. They will have been taught everything they need to know. We will have covered every bit of the subject matter but as wise man once said, ‘A teacher can open all kinds of doors. It’s up to the students to walk through it’,” said Lehman, reminding the students to use their week off wisely.
Gathered around the conference table at the Teens-In-Flight headquarters just outside of the Flagler Executive Airport, each of the students has his or her own reason for giving up the beginning of their summer vacation to take course.
Up from Ormond Beach, Mia Nilsen is one of three young women in the class, and after many dinners at High Jackers restaurant, declared her intention to become a commercial pilot.
“I’ve wanted to be a pilot for a while but I only just recently just learned about the Teens-In-Flight program,” said Nilsen. “I thought that it would help me become a pilot.”
With multiple members of her family in industry, 14-year old Amelia Saunders is looking forward to earning her wings to fly commercially, as well.
“The past three generations of my family have been pilots – my great grandfather and my grandfather they flew for the military, and my dad flies commercially for American,” said Saunders.
“It’s kind of what brought me to liking to fly. Everything that we’ve been learning is new and it’s all useful. I know that I’m going to use it in the future.”
While many of the student come from within 60 to 90 miles to attend ground school, 16-year old Ty Olmedo and his father Robert Olmedo, flew in from Kalama, Washington to allow Ty to take the course.
“My dad told me about the program and I thought it would be cool to learn and do ground school with people around my age,” said Ty Olmedo.
Starting to fly about six weeks ago, the pair talk often about Ty’s options for the future.
“Flying was something that I had mentioned years ago so I looked for a summer school that would allow him to go with kids who are like-minded that might want to go into aviation,” Robert Olmedo said, sharing his appreciation of Teens-In-Flight’s emphasis on flying and immersion in the material.
Set to attend Cascadia Technical Academy in Vancouver, Washington next year, Robert sees the Teens-In-Flight program as a building block to his son’s success.
“I just think it’s a self-confidence builder,” he said. “Even if he doesn’t become a pilot he has the skills.”
Teens-In-Flight has offered summer camp for several years as an accelerated program according to Lehman, and it’s attractive to families who want their children to have the experience without restricting the entire summer vacation.
“We have had students that have come from up to two to three hours away because of the quality of the program,” said Lehman. “This is the first time I’ve had somebody come from about as far away as you can get, to Florida. To me it just says a lot about what somebody else thinks about our program. If they’re willing to fly all the way out here from Washington state, it must be a pretty decent program.”
“I think it’s important to recognize that Teens-In-Flight is a national program. We have kept true to our core values as we remain totally transparent,” said USMC (ret) Col. Jack Howell, board president and founder of Teens-In-Flight. “Since we began in 2006, we have worked with well over 275 teens.”
To learn more about Teens-In-Flight, visit https://teensinflight.org.