INDIAN TRAIL – Some Sun Valley High School students are flying high at the school’s Aviation Academy.
Earlier this week in aerospace classes, some students were designing and building model aircraft pilot seats while others in a more advanced class actually piloted a plane on one of the program’s flight simulators.
Students in the academy will also design and shoot off rockets, design and build a remote-controlled aircraft, and design and make kites in one of the four different classes.
The aerospace lab includes flight simulators and a wind tunnel. The classes are limited to 20 students.
“This is project-based learning for all of these different things,” Aviation Academy instructor Bill Vivian said.
The Aviation Academy is split into two pathways – aerospace engineering and avionics.
The avionics pathway offers electronics labs with state-of-the art equipment, aircraft visits and projects. Avionics systems are an integral part of aircraft design and have vastly increased aircraft capability.
The aerospace engineering pathway allows students to explore the designing, building, testing and analyzing science behind the forces and physical properties of planes, rockets and unmanned vehicles.
Students in Vivian’s Aerospace 1 class make aerodynamic wings and determine if they have lift or draft by testing them in a wind tunnel with speeds up to 85 miles per hour.
The design and building of the remote-controlled airplane in Aerospace 2 is an intense process from start to finish.
“They make it from scratch and they fly it for 30 minutes,” Vivian said. “They make the fuselage, the wings, the flaps and the tailpiece. They have to make it where it will fly and stay up in the air for 30 minutes.”
A big part of Aerospace 3 in spending time in one of the flight simulators flying in different situations.
“They will pick certain coordinates they have to fly, meaning distance,” Vivian said of one exercise. “They have a certain cargo on their plane that they have to carry. They have to take into consideration the distance and the cargo to determine if they have enough fuel. They have three different planes that they utilize.”
Students also take field trips to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a flight school at the Monroe Airport and United Technologies Aerospace Division in Monroe.
Vivian said the academy is a good way to start on the path for a career in the aviation industry. Students at other district high schools can take the classes at Sun Valley but they must provide their own transportation.
“If they make it through level four, they can actually get a pilot’s license,” Vivian said. “By the time they get to the end of Aerospace 2, they are making a remote-controlled airplane. Most of Aerospace 3 is flight time.”
Students in avionics can get certified after each class and they can take a complete certification at the end of the program. An avionics company will accept that certification for an entry-level position.
“We get them familiar with electricity in general and how things work in Avionics 1,” instructor Josh French said. “Avionics 2 is alternating current. We deal more with test equipment. Avionics 3 is analog electricity. Students see how the circuits work. Avionics 4 is digital electronics, which is pretty much what everyone is looking for in today’s market.”