New aviation program allows teenagers to get their private pilot’s certification

New aviation program allows teenagers to get their private pilot's certification

Brayton Laster, reporter

High altitudes, plane building, solo flying and high schooler are generally not put together in the same sentence; however, the Indy South Greenwood Airport is opening a new aviation program that combines all four.

Mr. Roger Tomey is the director of the Aviation Technology Center at Indy South Greenwood Airport and will help lead the new program.

“Before the pandemic, there was a huge demand for airline pilots. Now, multiple pilots have retired early, so once this pandemic is over, you are going to see a huge shortage in pilots. The demand will be higher than it was even before the pandemic,” he said. “Salaries are going to be high, and they are already high. International pilots are probably earning $200,000-$300,000 a year. But that all depends on your ranking and if you are flying domestically or not.”

Junior Riva DeRaedt will be joining the program when it opens up early 2021 and is already a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagle Program

“I used to volunteer my time at a few events at the airport, and there was an event with where a B-17 WWII bomber was brought in to fly veterans and anyone interested, there I helped with maintenance on the aircraft, and I immediately fell in love. My dad saw my interest, so he and Mr. Tomey suggested I joined the EAA Young Eagle Program,” she said.

The program will last a year to a year and a half and will consist of teenagers building a two-seater plane from a kit and receiving their private pilot certification.

“It’s a tough program. You have to be committed to it. First, we start off with an interview with the teen and their parents. Then, the teen will have to take a reasoning and cognitive test, then an interview with professional pilots, airline and military. If you get through that, then you will be in the program. If you’re in band or football, you won’t have enough time for it,” Mr. Tomey said.

A select group of students with work directly with certified FAA mechanics on building a plane during the program.

“The teenagers will also help build the plane. It is called an RV-12, a little two-seater airplane. We buy the kit, and the teenagers with the help of mechanics they put it together over a year and a half,” Mr. Tomey said. “This process will be a little more select due to our restrictions; we are looking at around 10 students for the plane building program.”

The Indy South Greenwood Airport hosts multiple events throughout the year that allow people to interact with airplanes and learn more information about the career field.

“Since joining the EAA I try to volunteer for any events they host. It has led me to many opportunities in my life including this new program. As a junior in high school I find it amazing that this opportunity is being made available, and I think more teens should consider it as an option as it could be a good fallback career,” DeRaedt said.

The program gives students a cheap entry into field.

“It is only $75-$100 for the pilot program. That will mainly be taken care of with grants and our scholarship program. Normally to get your certificate, it will cost $10,000-$11,000. After the 12 month program, you won’t be able to get paid for it, but you will be able to get your certificate and fly by yourself. It will also give you a head start in your career as well,” he said.

The program will be available for anyone in high school and can open the door in an aspiring career field.

“I’m honestly looking forward to seeing how much this program can help people, this is the first step to getting younger generations interested in a career path that is currently in need of more attention,” DeRaedt said. “I have actually flown a few times before and it was really eye opening overall. I never would have thought I would get the opportunity to fly and see everything from such a different perspective. I just love looking out at the little world we call ours and I will most likely never see it in the same way.”

By acquiring a private pilot certification prior to college can give a huge advantage when entering most college aviation programs.

“Most aviation programs in college actually preferred that you came into their program already with your private pilot certificate. You will get flying hours, and then once you get your private pilot’s certificate, you will have to start moving your way through all the certifications starting with your instrument rating and test which allows you to fly at night or in bad weather. But to actually become a commercial pilot, you have to have over 1,000 flying hours and a four-year degree from an aviation program. If you don’t have your degree then you will need at least 1,500 flying hours,” Mr. Tomey said.

Students can join the program in early January by emailing Mr. Tomey at [email protected]