Weeklong camp helps teens get feet off the ground
Eighteen-year-old Alex Lilly probably doesn’t think much about being multi-modal. The 2008 Kuna High School graduate just “likes anything that moves.”
His grandfather founded a number of yacht clubs; his father is a private pilot. And Lilly talks lovingly to his classic Pontiac GTO muscle car to keep it running. Last week he took his life-in-motion to new heights when he joined a dozen other teenagers in learning aviation from the ground up at the annual Aviation Career Exploration academy.
ITD’s Division of Aeronautics sponsors the annual weeklong, hands-on introduction to aviation. High school students from throughout the state assemble for a variety of fun, educational experiences. Most of this year’s class came from the Treasure Valley.
Eric Klobetanz, a 14-year-old sophomore from Riggins, is an exception. The best part of the week, he insists, was a tour of Mountain Home Air Force Base and seeing the cockpits of fighter jets. His academy-culminating experience was a flight to the Smith-Prairie airstrip between Boise and Idaho City.
Klobetanz enjoyed a brief moment at the plane’s controls, endured a two-hour layover in the pines next to the airstrip and a flight shortened by a stubborn Cessna 206.
Quentin Stepon, a 13-year-old from Emmett, had never been in a small airplane before. He too was enthralled by the brief flight and a turn at the stick.
“I really like the plane ride and the tour of the Mountain Home Air Force Base,” he said. Stepon eventually would like to have and fly his own plane.
If Lilly has his way, ACE won’t be his last academy. He plans to make a second run at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs next year; he missed the cut in his initial attempt last year. In the interim, he will attend Boise State University and enlist in the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program.
“I love the fact that we’re flying in a 41-year-old plane,” he said of the Cessna. “It’s a classic like my GTO. It smells like 1967. There’s nothing like the smell of av gas in the morning.”
Participants in the 2008 ACE Academy began the week with a tour of the airport fire station and a burn demonstration. They also received an introduction to flight navigation in the classroom and toured the Boise Airport.
Tuesday’s schedule included a trip to the Mountain Home Air Force Base, a tour of the Jackson Jet Center, a stop at Jetstream Aviation, a session with Sun Valley Aviation. Following another classroom training session on Wednesday, students went to Gowen Field for a tour of the Army/Air National Guard facility. They also engaged in a paper airplane flight distance contest and toured the National Interagency Fire Center to learn about smoke-jumping.
Thursday morning’s hands-on flight to several of Idaho’s remote airstrips prefaced a tour of the Warhawk Air Museum and interaction with World War II veterans, a tour of the Mission Aviation Fellowship Headquarters and turns at Eagle SIMport’s flight simulators. The day – and the week – concluded with a picnic in Boise.
"Without fail, the students characterize their time here as well spent and describe the academy as absolutely one event that they will not forget," said Frank Lester, safety/education coordinator for the Division of Aeronautics before this year’s academy. "They arrive hesitant and a bit unsure, but leave excited about opening new doors, making new contacts and meeting new friends."