Noelle Smalls, left, and her older sister Natalie are all smiles as they exit the Cessna 172 piloted by Robert James on Saturday during the Youth in Aviation Day at Beaufort Executive Airport on Lady’s Island. The program, in conjunction with the Aviation Academy, gives children the opportunity to go on flights around Beaufort in hopes of sparking an interest in the aviation industry. Bob Sofaly/The Island News.

Youth in Aviation program expanded to Beaufort, Battery Creek high schools


From staff reports

With a second grant from the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Beaufort Youth in Aviation Program, which provides free flights at Beaufort Executive Airport, is now open to students at Battery Creek and Beaufort High Schools.

“Since Beaufort Aviation Association created the program in Nov. 2021, the initial Lockheed Martin grant of $10,000 has funded free flights to 46 St. Helena Island youth enrolled in The Altitude Academy,” President Jean Sulc said. “The founding plan was to expand to other Beaufort schools when subsequent monies were obtained.”

Lockheed Martin’s Marine Corps Air Station F-35 site manager Nicholas Mesenberg recommended the 2021 grant and its $5,000 follow-on.

“The leaders of the Youth in Aviation Program first worked with The Altitude Academy,” he said, “to introduce aviation and its many opportunities to elementary and secondary youth who might never have considered it as a rewarding profession.”

The expansion to Battery Creek High School, which has an aviation vocation program, and Beaufort High, which has a large Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is likely to produce immediate success, explained the Aviation Association’s founder, James Atkins.

“The school’s leaders already appreciate aerospace and its many opportunities,” he said, “so they will support the free flights we offer. We will provide them to any of the schools’ students who wish to experience the Magic of Flight.”

Twelve youth a month will be flown beginning Oct. 29 and additional grants will be sought to increase that number.

“There is no cost to the schools, the parents, or the youth.” Atkins said, “The parents must only agree to a liability waiver for the schools, the program, and the pilots.”

Scheduling of the flights is with BHS’s JROTC leader, Eric Thompson, and Battery Creek’s Aviation Vocation leader, Richard Vaughn. For more information contact James Atkins at 843-812-9909.

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