Michigan school celebrates aviation milestone

“I think it’s incredible being able to represent everyone,” he told WZZM Channel 13. “I may not be the most experienced or the best pilot out of anybody, but I do my best.” Nacke added that aviation was his calling in life. He has plans to pursue it as a career after first attending Grand Rapids Community College.

West Michigan is a charter high school, and the aviation program spans seven counties. The institution is co-located at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and counts a total of 115 private pilots who have earned their wings since operations began 10 years ago, with Nacke representing the school’s 100th. An incoming fall class of 20 students is expected to enroll in flight training courses. Build A Plane activities and unmanned aircraft systems studies are also popular with students, school officials said.

High school senior Aidan Nacke, shown with West Michigan Aviation Academy founder Dick DeVos, was the 100th student to earn a private pilot certificate. Photo courtesy of West Michigan Aviation Academy.

West Michigan Aviation Academy Dean of Aviation and Engineering George Pavey said he was extremely proud of all 20 seniors in the Class of 2021 who earned a private pilot certificate. “It’s been a grind of a year with COVID-19 protocols and flight training, and it’s been tough on these kids.”

Students juggled virtual and in-school studies with stops and starts along the way because of rising and falling coronavirus infection numbers that stifled traditional high school activities.

“Getting 20 students graduated with their pilot licenses was a big lift” to the school and to the community, Pavey said. “There’s not a more thankful group of students to have had the opportunity to earn a private pilot certificate amid all the challenges” they faced.

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