With the success of last year’s Aero Camp, the Edwards Aero Club hosted its second annual Aero Camp from April 21 to 25, to prepare and introduce students to the world of aviation.
During the week-long camp, students ages 14 to 19, are trained by certified flight instructors and start flight and ground school training with additional training features along the way.
“Since there was a recent article that was just released courtesy of the National Business Aviation Association indicating that there is going to be a great pilot shortage in the near future, with this camp, we wanted to be able to give young people an entry into the aviation field and to help each one possibly find a career path,” said Silke Eyles, Aero Club chief flight instructor. “That was my motivation for starting this last year and continuing onto this year, but we also encourage anyone who is interested in aviation to come out.”
As part of the training curriculum, Eyles said the team put together elements from last year’s camp and incorporated new elements as well. Altogether the students undergo eight hours of training a day, 40 hours for the week.
“The curriculum that we use is still a condensed version of what we teach our private pilot students. They receive their ground school kit; register online and we go through the same labs,” said Connie Farmer, Aero Club manager. “The other thing we offer once they complete their ground school kit is that they come back and take a short oral exam with one of our instructors. We then sign them off, so they can take their Federal Aviation Administration written exam. That also covers their entire ground school by the time they complete their kit.”
A great portion of the training, as noted by Eyles, still involves flying, familiarization with the aircraft at the Aero Club, and basic movement around the aircraft during pre-flight inspections.
“We definitely have flying every day. We give each student an hour of flying time each. We land and then rotate our students out. Our first goal is to get them comfortable in the airplane and have them learn what the airplane does,” added Eyles. “We have flight instructors who are very experienced, so it’s amazing how quickly these kids pick up the training and get comfortable with the airplane, even more so with the second set Aero Camp students. We then follow up with ground school every afternoon, airplane systems, aerodynamics, flight planning and instruments. We encourage them to look outside and see at the altitude of the airplane. The second lesson is teaching them the process of approach landings. While every student’s talent is different, the aero camp strives to customize the training to each kid’s needs.”
As for the new elements the Aero Club incorporated this year, Farmer said they reached out to their own members in aviation-minded career fields to schedule real hands-on experiences for the students attending. Part of that experience involved having students tour Joshua Approach, an FAA air traffic control facility; the Integration Facility for Avionics System Testing (IFAST) building, a facility geared for mission control and flight simulator training; and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.
“Introducing them to people involved in the aviation industry just opens the doors to so many fields and opportunities, but we try to remind them that it all goes back to learning and mastering the basic skills in math, science and reading and incorporating all that,” Farmer said. “All the kids that sign up are so much more advanced and they are extremely interested in not only learning one aspect, but the entire process of flight.”
According to Eyles, the goal last year was to offer the camp twice a year during summer and winter break. This year, however, the Aero Club decided to host its camp during Spring Break and is set to host its second camp in late July.
“Since we are within a restricted area where FAA planes don’t normally fly and our airplanes are Air Force-owned, we like to remind folks that there is nothing like this camp. We get to take-off and land on the same runway where Chuck Yeager took off in order to break the sound barrier, so it truly is a unique opportunity plus you have an air show every day here at Edwards,” added Eyles. “Not only is the quality of training and the equipment a big contributor, but flying out of Edwards AFB is what generally motivates a lot of people to start with us.”
For more information about the Aero Camp and other flying opportunities at the Aero Club, call (661) 275-AERO or visit their webpage at http://edwardsfss.com/wordpress/recreation/aero-club . The maximum number of students the Aero Club can take for its second camp is six students and three is the minimum.