'I Want to Be a Pilot': Grand Island Public Schools Students Take Free Flying Lessons

Feb. 24, 2021, 5:27 p.m. ·

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Students at Grand Island Public Schools can now take free flying lessons. Eight students flew for the first time with an instructor last week.

At the Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education meeting, five hours of flight instruction for all high school juniors and seniors within the Senior High School’s Aviation-Flight pathway program were funded. According to Canadian training and simulator provider CAE, there is a shortage of pilots in the global civil aviation industry and will need about 264,000 pilots over the coming decade.

The district’s Director of Innovation for College and Career Readiness Daniel Phillips said the pathway is part of the senior high’s goal to offer career opportunities to students with high skill, wage, and demand.

"We wanted to make sure that if we had students that had an interest in flight, but are currently living in poverty, we didn't want their financial situation to stop them from pursuing their dreams," he said.

Forty students enrolled in the pathway learn from flight simulators and a certified flight instructor. Phillips said since the program started, they told students they wanted them to fly, but it took 18 months of hurdles, like getting insurance, to get there.

Grand Island Senior High School student Elieser Martin Montes De Oca (left) speaks with GIPS Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover, senior student Jesus Mosqueda Ramirez Jr., and GISH Academy of Engineering & Technology Principal Matt Wichman (right) (Photo Courtesy Grand Island Public Schools).

"It was pretty painstaking, in terms of what we had to go through to do it, but once we saw the kids in the air, and the looks on their face and their excitement and their passion really coming through, it made all that worth it," he said.

Senior Elieser Martin is one of the students who flew for about 30 minutes for the first time at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport last week. He said he can’t believe he landed an airplane.

"After that flying, I want to say I want to be a pilot. It's complicated, it's difficult to get it, but I want to be. I want to try," he said.

The Latino student believes everyone should have the opportunity to explore different careers like he has at Grand Island Senior High.