MEDICINE HAT, AB — Starting this fall, students at Eagle Butte High School will have the opportunity to earn their wings.
The Prairie Rose School Division unveiled the Dave Rozdeba South Alberta Flight Academy, which will be available for students at Eagle Butte High School. Over three years, students involved with the academy will receive high school credits and training to help them earn their private pilot’s licence.
Logan Neubauer, a Grade 9 student at Seven Persons School, is looking forward to the program, having developed an interest in aviation since he was four years old.
“This program offers exponential opportunities for today’s youth to experience, and I just think it’s unbelievable we’re exposed to this with a public school division,” he said.
Neubauer, who is also a member of the local Air Cadet squadron, says he is already counting down the days until he can enrol.
“As the days go on, I just can’t wait until I get into high school next year and get to take part in this,” he said.
The program runs from Grade 10-12, and will see students transported to the Super T Aviation hangar in Medicine Hat at least twice a week, says program coordinator Darren MacMillan. The first year will be primarily ground school, with students getting an introduction to aviation, drone pilot, mechanics and meteorology. They will also log hours in flight simulators.
Starting in Grade 11, students will take to the air with instructors to earn the appropriate number of hours towards a private pilot’s licence. Students will still have to pass a written exam and a medical exam in addition to their flight exam to get the licence, and must be 17 years old to hold a private pilot’s licence.
The flight academy is the second academy offered through the Prairie Rose School Division, following the South Alberta Hockey Academy. MacMillan says they want to offer academy programs to help spark an interest in learning.
“What these academies are able to do, in my mind, is sometimes take these kids might not necessarily love school, but we give them something to really enjoy and love about school,” he said.
Terri Super, the owner of Super T Aviation, says the industry is facing a pilot shortage of approximately 6,000 pilots in Canada over the next 20 years. She believe the program could help address the shortage by introducing students to the variety of careers in aviation.
“There is a great need, and with that need, there comes a need again for aircraft maintenance, flight attendants, air traffic control,” she said. “The whole industry is in need of young, interest kids to come into the aviation industry.”
Dave Rozdeba was a former teacher and principal at Eagle Butte High School, who passed away from cancer in 2017.
His daughter Katelyn spoke about her dad’s passion for aviation.
“He was always doing something with planes,” she said. “He took ground school, did another couple of courses with planes, he started the Family, Fun and Flight here in Medicine Hat.”
She adds he would be proud to see the academy bearing his name.
“He would love it, she said. “He would be all over it, here every day with it, working on it to get it better.”
An information session will take place May 22 at the Super T Aviation Hangar at 7 p.m., to provide additional information to parents about the academy.