Community Papers

New program set for take off

Surrey aviation student Christopher Kovacs (right) and instructor Jordan L’Abbé inspect a plane’s propeller.   - Contributed photo
Surrey aviation student Christopher Kovacs (right) and instructor Jordan L’Abbé inspect a plane’s propeller.
— image credit: Contributed photo

While most teens anxiously wait for their driver’s licence allowing them to borrow their parents’ car without supervision, some Surrey students will be setting their sights a bit higher.

Sky-high, to be exact.

Eligible students in the Surrey School District will now be able to get a jump start on flying with a new ground school training program launching this month.

Through a partnership with the Canadian Flight Centre, the school district will be offering the course at Boundary Bay Airport to students 16 and older, who meet requirements needed to complete the instructional component of a private aviation licence and who have been recommended by their school career education facilitator.

It will combine classroom instruction with onsite activities and field trips, and will include opportunities for students to observe inside the air-traffic control tower and assist in the airport hangar.

Panorama Ridge Secondary students who participate may recognize one of the flight instructors involved in the program.

Teacher Jordan L’Abbé, who is also an experienced pilot, will be helping students get ready for some quality air time.

“The feeling of flying never stops being exciting. I can’t imagine the feeling of the airplane’s wheels leaving the ground ever becoming mundane,” L’Abbé said. “Even more exciting is to see the look in a student’s face when they realize I’m about to send them up on their own for the very first time.

“To see the look in their faces when they land the plane after their first solo is extremely validating – both for student and instructor.”

Students will be able to take the course in the evenings, once a week. Along with the possibility of working towards a career, students are given high school graduation credits.

“This could start them down the path to several possible careers in aviation. No matter what, however, the fact that the program participation appears on the students permanent transcript is another proverbial feather in their caps,” L’Abbé said.

“It shows them to be well-rounded.”

Courses range from theory of flight to meteorology and navigation, opening doors in many different careers – not just piloting, he noted.

Upon completion, students will receive a high school credit, ground school credit towards a Private Pilot’s Licence – a pre-requisite to earning a Commercial Pilot’s Licence – and will use many of the skills they have learned in school.

“It ends up being one of those “a-ha” moments, with many students coming back to the classroom realizing there is a purpose behind what is being taught,” L’Abbé said.

For L’Abbé, the cumulation of all the skills students have acquired coming together is just another reason why the program is so fulfilling.

“There are not too many times in education where the sum of all of a student’s learning boils down to one moment. When the wheels leave the ground, not only is a student taking flight for the first time, but they’re demonstrating that they’ve understood the physics, the math, the meteorology – everything that they’ve learned in elementary school and in high school is symbolized by that one moment,” he said.

“Beyond that – being up and above the chaos of the everyday world really helps to put life into perspective. It’s one of those things where everything else becomes unimportant – the beauty of the landscape and the concentration required to do the job makes everything else fade away.”

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