A relatively new program in the McKinney Independent School District is taking off with its students.
In its first year, the aviation and avionics elective had about 40 students enrolled.
However, this year, the district had to cap enrollment at 250.
“I’ve definitely been looking forward to getting a pilot’s license more than a driver’s license,” said McKinney Boyd Junior Jimmy Bauder, who eventually wants to become a commercial pilot.
Students like Bauder get in-class instruction five days per week as an introduction to the industry.
Eventually, they qualify for ground school and, at age 18, may apply for a pilot’s license.
“When I’m up, I don’t get nervous at all,” Bauder said about times he’s flown with neighbors and friends. “You’re just floating and you can see for miles.”
Fellow classmate, McKinney Boyd senior Robyn Pope, says she is looking for a career in the military.
“This program has really pushed me in that direction and really given me a lot of inspiration,” she said.
She’ll soon begin studying for her pilot’s license.
Program founders Fritz Mowery and Alejandro House are funding the program.
Mowery says he had been thinking about starting a class for years, since he began mentoring an at-risk young man by teaching him to fly.
“It changed his whole life course,” he said.
House says the in-school training also lays a foundation for beyond graduation, even if a student doesn’t immediately pursue college.
“They can actually start working in jobs that are paying 35, 50 dollars per hour, right out of high school,” he said.
The program is a nonprofit – and its sponsors say they are looking for alternate funding streams as well.