Austin Mitchell, a junior at the Northshore’s North Creek High School, grew up surrounded by family members who have been involved in aviation in some form or other, so when the District launched an Introduction to Aviation class this school year, he signed up for it immediately.
“My great-great uncle served in World War II and flew B-17 bombers,” Mitchell said. “My grandfather worked for Lockheed Martin, and my father currently works for Boeing. Through my life I’ve had a history of aviation. Once I saw this class was available, I thought it would be the best thing to take it.”
Doug Hakala, who teaches the class of about 30 students, said the course educates the students on a wide range of topics, including aviation history, how jet engines work, and the basics of aircraft aerodynamics. It gives them a taste of aviation, helping them decide if they want to pursue a career in the industry, something Mitchell said he definitely wants to do, either as a pilot or as an engineer.
Many of the other students in Hakala’s class also share Mitchell’s interest in airplanes and all-things aviation-related.
“The goal is to allow students to become confident about their choices about their futures,” said Hakala.
Hakala said another goal of the class is to equip students with enough knowledge to pass the Federal Aviation Administration written test, which puts them on a path to earn a pilot’s license.
Senior Jade Keimig has been interested in airplanes since she was child, so when North Creek offered the class this school year, she also jumped on it.
Keimig said her mother used to work for Alaska Airlines, so she knew taking the course could set her on a course to become a pilot.
“Because of this class, I want to become a pilot after I earn a four-year degree,” Keimig said. “But I also have become interested in science and physics.”
Part of the course includes practice on a Redbird flight simulator, something that all the students enjoy.
“The simulator was the coolest thing I have experienced in a long time,” Keimig said. “It feels very real. I thought it would be easy, like driving, but there’s so much more to learn. It’s insane!”
Senior Rafael Cardenas said he took the class out of curiosity and didn’t know he would get to use the simulator, so he really has enjoyed the class.
“It feels like you’re on a plane, and it teaches you how to control it,” Cardenas said.
Senior Maria Kallerson has also been interested in aviation and flying since the first time she flew in an airplane. When she saw the aviation class as an elective, she signed up for it.
“The simulator is challenging and complicated, but it gets easier,” Kallerson said. “You get the hang of it after a while.”
Junior Victor Navarro’s grandfather served in the Navy, but he would prefer to join the Air Force to try to become a pilot. He said learning the science has been a challenge, but that’s not going to stop him from pursuing his dream.
“I wanted to be a pilot before I took class, since I was 16,” Navarro said. “I will continue and take it to the next level and take flying lessons.”
The Introduction to Aviation class is a Career and Technical Education course, and it fulfills a graduation elective requirement. Hakala said it builds on other classes, especially on knowledge of physics, a requirement for anyone who wants to fly airplanes.
Cardenas said he doesn’t want to pursue a career in aviation, but the class has sparked an interest in engineering.
“I don’t want to be a pilot, but the science has been challenging and interesting,” he said.
Harman Gill, a junior, said she finds the science, physics and math aspects intellectually stimulating.
“I never thought of applying math and science to the real world. I always thought math was just math,” Gill said. “With aviation, you apply math to real world scenarios, and you see how it works. It makes it more interesting for me.”
Senior Braxton Larson said he loves the class because he gets to learn about physics in the real world, not just in theory.
“It’s practical knowledge you can use,” Larson said. “You’re not just sitting in a classroom, and that makes it more interesting, especially learning about aerodynamics.”
Hakala said the students will go on several field trips, including visits to Boeing’s Museum of Flight, Harvey Field in Snohomish County, and the University of Washington’s Aeronautics and Astronautics College of Engineering.