Student Pilot Numbers Halved

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Opinions aside, fewer than half the number of student pilots are today bumping their way through touch and goes and spinning whiz wheels when compared to recent boom times, and the old guard is mobilizing to increase those ranks. One of these initiatives is among the most ambitious recycling projects we've come across. Build A Plane takes donations of unfinished kit airplanes and non-airworthy certified aircraft and distributes them to high schools and youth organizations that want to take them on as projects. Local experts are enlisted to help the kids do the work necessary to make the project fly. There are dozens of projects underway, ranging from a BD-5 to a Twin Comanche. Another group, Wings of Charity, allows dedicated participants to get their private pilot certificate for a vastly reduced price. Wings of Charity operates summer camps in which kids 13-17 get hands-on exposure to flying through an initial five-day program. Those serious about flying come back again in subsequent years, taking a solo program that includes 18 hours of instruction, leading to the first solo, for just $300. The successful soloists can return the following year to finish off their private ticket for another $500. "We're not trying to make pilots out of every one of them -- we want to show them [what] they [can] achieve," Capt. Bill Norwood, a United pilot and program volunteer, told the Southern Illinoisan. "We teach them they can go into an area that is foreign and that they can conquer those challenges. They can take those lessons to other parts of their lives."