Magdalena youth get to fly high at Kirtland AFB

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Jessica Sullivan from Magdalena can’t wait to go back to Kirtland Air Force Base next summer for another aviation camp. Sullivan was one of 24 youth, 10 of whom were from Magdalena School District, who participated in a weeklong camp at Kirtland Air Force Base last week, learning all about military and commercial aviation.

Photo by Susann Mikkelson/El Defensor Chieftain: Retired Kirtland Air Force Base flight instructor Alex Carrauthers autographs the certificate of completion for Jessica Sullivan following a special aviation camp hosted at Kirtland the week of June 17 through 21.

“It was kind of a unique experience,” Sullivan said. “If I get to come back next year, I definitely will!”

The camp program is very much a unique experience for youth. It is the fourth year the Tuskegee Airmen, Start Base Valuse, Kirtland Air Force Base, and a few school districts have held the camp. The camp links junior high and high school students to real-life math and science applications related to aviation and flying. Participants were not only able to experience various aircraft simulators on base, but they actually developed their own flight plans and even “flew” their own planes, with the help of a qualified co-pilot.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these kids,” said Jim Sauer, fifth-grade teacher for Madgalena Schools, and one of the organizers of this year’s camp. “The experience and education they receive is worth about $3,000 per student.”

“It’s hard to tell (my favorite part of the camp),” said Kintell Kelly of Magdalena, “but, I think flying the plane — the hands on experience of what you have to do. There are many laws and principles to follow.”

Kelly also plans to return to the camp next year, if given the opportunity.

“I learned that everything has a purpose,” said Zachariah Kiker of Magdalena. Kiker heard about the camp through his teacher, Sauer. “I wanted to get the knowledge. The coolest thing was to fly our own plane and there are many simulators worth over $55 million!”

Pepper Henderson, also of Magdalena, enjoyed the hands-on activities as well, especially the flying.

Students spend the first two days of the camp learning about the history, math and science of aviation – from Newton’s Law to the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Students also learn a little about the inner-workings of the various agencies (military and commercial) and how they work together to ensure the safety of the American public. The end of the week is all about developing their flight plans and learning to fly. Sauer said that students were surveyed on their math and science knowledge throughout the week. The survey results early in the week averaged a 34 percent knowledge and understanding of math and science related to aviation; by the end of the week, the average was 91 percent.

Sauer said the sponsors are working to develop at “year two” program to bring the youth back a second time, if they are interested and show promise. The idea is to really engage students and develop their interest in math and science – not just in the military, but related to aviation in general.

“We invite kids from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds from the area,” Sauer said. “Our goal is to keep expanding this program, as funding allows.”

The Magdalena School District donated the transportation for this year’s camp; a value of about $2,000 – approximately half of the total cost of the camp.

 

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