CARLSBAD — Alpha November Alpha two zero one eight is cleared for takeoff.
This fall, the call sign will be embedded with students at the Army and Navy Academy, who will have the opportunity to enroll in an aviation elective class. The curriculum will eventually be built out to a four-year course load and will give students an opportunity to earn a Federal Aviation Administration license.
Retired Marine Lt. Col Kevin Moss was recently hired to instruct the class, build the curriculum and more.
According to Ethan Segovia, dean of academics, about 40 students have already enrolled in the elective. About 20 spots are still open, for which he and Moss will recruit throughout the summer before school begins in the fall. It will be offered in four classes with no more than 18 students per class, Segovia said.
“We were looking for something that would give us a niche and create excitement in the classroom,” Segovia said of the origins of the program. “In aviation, it’s something you can blend into all the classes, so we are going to do cross-curricular. There is a huge shortage of pilots in every country.”
The program is also part of a strategy to engage more students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at the all-boys college prep school.
Moss spent 22 years in aviation in the Marines including as commander of the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 in Iraq from 2007-08.
One goal is to find a hook, Moss said, to put them on a path for a career in aviation. He and Segovia noted the shortage of pilots in the military and commercial sectors as another reason the school chose aviation as an elective.
The classes will only be available to the high school students, but Moss and Segovia said middle school students interested in flying can join the Warrior Aviation Club, which will serve as a pathway to the program.
“We want to have a program that not a lot of people will have … particularly in the STEM, science, technology area,” Segovia said.
Also, students will practice in a simulator, nicknamed “Tim the Sim,” aboard a Cessna 172, a four-seat, single-engine plane. The interactive software allows the students to take off from airports all over the world including McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.
It also includes the ability for Moss to throw real-life situations at the students while in the air. He said he can add cross or head winds, rain, snow or technical issues.
Another aspect is students can engage with other students across the country on the platform, who act as air traffic controllers or in flight. The software also includes writing and checking flight plans, taxi and radio calls, and on Friday “Funday,” students can fly larger planes such as a Boeing 737 or 777.
“The first year … is a hook,” Moss said. “We’re going to cover what aviation is, history, dabble in weather, safety management. It’s an overview of everything. We have several drones as well. And a lot of fun projects, in class and out of class.”
Perhaps the most important part of the curriculum, they said, is being able to have students relate to STEM curriculum. With real-life applications, and a fun environment, Moss said it is easier to learn, understand and apply in the simulator.
Study will include the physics of flight, mechanics, and math applications.
As for the license, Moss said it will take more schooling and training to earn a license for larger airplanes. He likened it to a driver’s license, where a motorist must pass courses for different classes of licenses.
One hope is the program will lead students to schools such as Embry Riddle University, one of the top aeronautical schools in the country.
“I want to leverage the excellent educators we have here already,” Moss said. “To me, aviation is the perfect platform to get kids interested in STEM.”