Aviation course coming to Fairmont High

Jerry Brooks, FHS math teacher and instructor for the new Principles of Flight course, gives senior Stephanie Young a tour of the plane before taking flight from the Fairmont Municipal Airport on Sunday.

A new course at Fairmont High School will help students and the community soar to new heights.

The idea to develop an aviation class at FHS came about four years ago when the school district began encouraging instructors to pursue professional development activities that would contribute to student achievement.

“The idea popped into my head right away, “Huh, I want to learn how to fly,'” said FHS Math Teacher Jerry Brooks.

Brooks and FHS Science Teacher Brad Johnson began taking flying lessons on weeknights and developing an aviation course for FHS students, gaining their pilot’s license two years later.

The two-semester Principles of Flight class will utilize commercially-prepared online curriculum, in-class discussion and hands-on projects to teach students the basics of flying. Although it is not required, students are encouraged to take flying lessons outside of the class in order to better understand the principles of flight.

Brooks said that because it is illegal in Minnesota for schools to own airplanes, he is currently working to create a nonprofit business to purchase a plane that can be used for the class.

At the end of the course, students are expected to pass the Federal Aviation Administration written test to gain a private pilot’s certificate.

While the class was initially open to students grades 9-12, only juniors and seniors will be taking the course next year due to the amount of students that have signed up.

To enroll, the 29 students interested in the class will have to go through an application and interview process with Brooks and take a Young Eagles flight to become a Young Eagles member of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

“This is kind of our way to trim 29 students to 15 by making them be accountable for some things,” said Brooks.

This past weekend, students interested in the class were able to get first-hand experience taking over the controls of an airplane at the Fairmont Municipal Airport. Brooks said that the students he has worked with so far have shown excitement for the class.

“Three of the four [students on Saturday] are just absolutely excited about it,” said Brooks. “When they got into that plane they were like, ‘When can I start flying for good?'”

Stephanie Young, who will be a senior, is one of the students who took a flight on Sunday. She said that she has had some experience flying, which made her want to sign up for the class to learn more.

“I like the thrill of being up in the air and having a new experience,” said Young. “It’s an adrenaline rush.”

While the course is currently only open to FHS students, Brooks said that the goal is to bring the curriculum to the community by collaborating with the City of Fairmont, area businesses and surrounding schools such as Truman, Martin County West, Granada Huntley East Chain and Blue Earth Area.

“This is not just supposed to be for Fairmont High School kids, but at this time Fairmont High School kids are definitely saturating the enrollment list. So there’s not really a place for kids from other schools yet,” said Brooks.

With the goal to share aviation education with surrounding communities and schools, there seems to be no limit to how high this program can fly.