Weeklong academy introduces teens to a career in aviation - Albuquerque Journal

Weeklong academy introduces teens to a career in aviation

Twin sisters Sophia, left, and Scarlette McIntyre, center, and their mother, Yukie, check out a plane on display before the start of classes during the June 2021 Double Eagle Aviation Academy. (Courtesy of EAA Chapter 179)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Twin sisters Sophia and Scarlette McIntyre, 15, will tell you straight out that only the sky is the limit when it comes to their choice of careers.

The sisters, sophomores at Albuquerque’s Southwest Aeronautics, Mathematics and Science Academy, want to be pilots for Delta Airlines.

“Our mom is a flight attendant for Delta,” Sophia said. That’s what the twins planned to be until their father, Christopher, suggested they could fly airliners instead.

“I never thought I could be a pilot,” Sophia said. But now, both she and Scarlette know better.

“SAMS Academy has an aviation program,” Sophia said. “I’m about to start simulator training.”

And last June, Sophia and Scarlette were enrolled in the weeklong Double Eagle Aviation Academy, offered and conducted by Albuquerque Chapter 179 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, a tax-exempt charitable organization. The DEAA program is open to teens 14 to 17 and takes place at Double Eagle II Airport on Albuquerque’s West Side. May 13 is the deadline to apply for this year’s Aviation Academy, which is scheduled for June 6-10. DEAA students study aviation weather, aircraft instruments, aerodynamics, navigation and more. At the end of the week, each student is invited to take a Young Eagles flight with a volunteer pilot.

“The flight was really exciting.” Scarlette said. “You get to do a pre-flight, make sure the weather is good and that you have everything you need on the plane. And you get to fly the plane a little bit. It’s rewarding. What I liked about DEAA is what they taught in the classroom was relevant to what you did outside class.”

Inspiring stories

EAA Chapter 179 is a group of pilots, aircraft builders and flying enthusiasts devoted to providing opportunities for people to get involved in aviation. The Aviation Academy, which is going into its seventh year, is one of EAA’s most effective youth-outreach programs.

EAA pilots, including Jim Kessler, DEAA coordinator and chief instructor, build the planes they fly .

Kessler said the most challenging courses for students enrolled in DEAA are navigation, aerodynamics and weight and balance, the latter important to an aircraft’s overall performance.

Scarlette McIntyre, center, inserts an aircraft pop rivet into a section of wing airfoil during a Double Eagle Aviation Academy class last year. At left is DEAA student Jayleen Saillant, and at right is Chris Olsen, the instructor in charge of the academy’s aircraft building workshop in 2021. (Courtesy of EAA Chapter 179)

“All three involve math, and that can be a little bit difficult, especially for kids going from eighth grade into their freshman year in high school,” Kessler said. “By the end of the week, they begin to build a flight plan for a trip from Double Eagle down to Belen.”

It’s not all mathematical equations. Students get to meet and talk to pilots and people in other aviation-related jobs, are able to explore a variety of aircraft up close, practice flight maneuvers on simulators and engage in projects that give them the chance to hone skills needed to build or repair aircraft.

Sophia said one of the things she liked best about last year’s DEAA program was meeting really cool people with inspiring aviation stories.

“Some were war veterans,” she said. “Others had built their own planes and some had traveled across the world.”

On the way

Kessler said the Young Eagles flight at the end of the DEAA course usually lasts about 45 minutes.

“In most cases (students) get to take the controls,” he said. “Its value is to get the experience of flying. Generally, they will do climbs and descents to specific altitudes and turns to a heading. If you can do those things, you are well on the way to being able to pilot a plane.”

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