A lesson in the sky

Similar to AOPA’s You Can Fly program, STEM Flights is a nonprofit organization that shares AOPA’s mission to create positive experiences in general aviation and inspire America’s youth to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math careers.

Students from Greenville Technical Charter High School (GTCHS) are just some of more than 8,000 students who are using AOPA’s aviation STEM curriculum. The aviation students and mentor pilots from South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina met at Greenville Downtown Airport for the experience where students had the opportunity to conduct pre- and postflight briefings as well as learn objectives in the cockpit while flying over South Carolina’s scenic valleys. (All pilots and students wore masks because of COVID-19 safety concerns).

STEM Flights Pilot Mentor Bill Kahn demonstrates how to check the prop during preflight inspection. His passenger, Gabe Turner, is currently taking the AOPA High School STEM Curriculum at Greenville Technical Charter High School in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo courtesy of STEM Flights.

Doug Adomatis, aviation educator at GTCHS said, “STEM Flights gives meaning to what we do in the classroom.” GTCHS uses the AOPA STEM curriculum, and the program is currently in its fourth year at the school. “Our students are able to get aviation experiences locally, and this event really capped off the learning this semester.”

STEM Flights began as a concept from founder Gen. Dave Brubaker a retired fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. After transitioning to civilian life, he continued his passion for flying and purchased a Cessna 172 for personal use. He began giving countless rides to family, friends, and strangers who showed an interest in flying. Around the same time, Brubaker noticed the growing technical skills gap with many jobs being outsourced to foreign countries. It became his passion to inspire youth to pursue STEM careers, and thus, STEM Flights was born.

“If pilots can commit to 4 or 5 flights a year, that makes a tremendous impact on so many students across the country,” Brubaker said.

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