Flight simulator aims to help high schoolers become pilots

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Getting a pilot license can be a long and expensive process but one non-profit group is working to help high school students have their private pilot's license by the time they graduate high school.

Local, retired flight captains created the Airolina Young Aviator's program to take high school students under their wings, teaching them basic flight instruction using a Red Bird flight simulator.

"It simulates any airport, with the terrain of that airport, and the layout of that airport anywhere in the world," flight instructor Tom Browne said.

The program takes on students in their freshmen and sophomore years of high school, so they may accumulate enough practice hours by graduation to earn their pilot license.

Retired pilot and flight instructor Warren Wheeler said flight lessons in Durham were $14 per hour when he started and now they're $170. He said it takes 40 hours of practice to get a private pilot license, but 1,500 to fly commercial.
"The average family and the average child can't afford to do that," Wheeler said. "We're trying to make it affordable."

Browne said the simulator cuts cost because students can practice flight checks and learn equipment functions before getting to the real deal.

"Some of the students go right to the airplane, spend a lot of hours just getting familiar with airplane," Browne said "Just getting comfortable with 'What happened? Where's that?' turbulence and so on."

The Airolina students said being able to fly is their childhood dream, and they hope this program will make it a reality.

"My dad, when I was young, he used to always take me to RDU and watch the airplanes fly off, so that was a big impact," 14 year-old Robert Anthony Nash said.

"I'm looking forward to getting my license and being able to fly on my own," he added.

"This is something I want to follow all the way through," 15 year-old Brandon Yarborough said. "It's amazing being up there in the clouds."

If you're interested in learning more about the non-profit program, or if you're interested in helping financially, check out their website.

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