Who will design the next F-35?

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Battery Creek aviation students get plane-side, hands-on lesson at airshow

The futures of tech-savvy Battery Creek High students took a leap forward Saturday – by traveling back 75 years in aviation history.

COVER - MCAS Airshow 2014 (9 of 27)The GEICO Skytypers invited 20 students from Battery Creek’s Project Lead the Way program to the tarmac to inspect a squadron of six vintage WWII planes performing at the 2015 MCAS Beaufort Airshow. Project Lead the Way is a national engineering program that lets high school students earn college credit toward careers in aviation. It exposes teens to critical math, science and engineering skills in demand by local employers like the air station in Beaufort, Boeing in Charleston and Gulfstream in Savannah.

“We’re thrilled that the very same planes that trained the pilots of the Greatest Generation are helping launch the careers of a new generation of pilots, designers and aviation mechanics,” says Commanding Officer and GEICO Skytypers lead pilot Larry Arken.
Tony Petrucci teaches aerospace engineering and aviation at Battery Creek and says the chance for his students to see the full continuum of military aircraft will add a fresh perspective to their classroom studies.

Tony Petrucci
Tony Petrucci

The airshow plane-side lesson is part of a commitment by the GEICO Skytypers to help students imagine careers in all aspects of aviation. Many of the mechanics who maintain the rare SNJ squadron and keep the planes in top airshow condition are graduates of similar programs in the Northeast. Thirty-five-year-old Frank Atria is the chief line officer for the Long Island-based GEICO Skytypers.

“Physics didn’t make sense to me until I enrolled in an aviation program like the one at Battery Creek,” says Atria. “What’s different about this type of training is that you end up using every single thing you learned in school, from math to fabric work to metal forming.”

Jim Record, GEICO Skytyper pilot and professor at the Dowling School of Aviation says it’s important for students to realize careers in aviation extend beyond becoming pilots.

“Airshows like the one in Beaufort can’t go on without the very best ground crews maintaining the planes, ” Record says. “And when you add in careers in air traffic control and aircraft management, the sky really is the limit.

Battery Creek High School Senior Mark Hatrick (18) quoted after he sat in the cockpit of a plane older than his grandparents, “I never thought just looking at the outside of these planes that they’d have as much technology in the cockpit as they do: GPS, pressurized sensors and everything. My main goal is to design the next generation of planes.”

Hatrick and 17-year-old fellow senior Ian Klauck got some advice from GEICO Skytyper solo pilot Tom Daly. He’s also the Dean of Aviation at Dowling School of Aviation on Long Island.

COVER MCAS Airshow 2014 (10 of 27)“These kids start college with a mission, knowing what they want to do. So they have a much higher retention rate and end up with successful careers,” Daly says. “I’m putting aviation students into jobs before they even graduate – the sky really is the limit if they’re well prepared.”

Petrucci, who was invited to ride in one of the Blue Angel’s plane during yesterday’s practice, remarked, “What motivates me is when a student comes in because they like planes and want to be pilots. Then these innovative high schools give them the chance to see how many different fields there are in aviation.

The air station and this airshow are a microcosm of that – everything from mechanics to first responders to air traffic controllers.”