HOUGHTON - With his hand clenched to the joystick and his feet planted firmly on the ground, Brady Esterline prepared for landing at Houghton County Memorial Airport.
"For a career in life I always wanted to be an aerospace engineer," the Port Huron, Mich. youth said Wednesday during a flight simulator exercise at Michigan Technological University. "I'm learning a lot and we're only three days in."
Esterline was one of 13 students in grades 9 through 11 participating in a week-long exploration program about aviation and aerospace. Offered through Michigan Tech's Summer Youth Program, the class began Monday and introduced students to a variety of career possibilities such as general aviation pilot, military pilot, unmanned aviation vehicles, and airport operations, among others.
Daily Mining Gazette/Kelly Fosness
Owen Lee of Oakland Township, Mich., exits the cockpit of Maj. Joe Masini’s aircraft Thursday at Houghton County Memorial Airport in Franklin Township.
Classes were held on and off Michigan Tech's campus and covered a number of topics including: rockets and space, aircraft instruments, plotting courses on a sectional chart, aviation weather, and more. At one point students had the opportunity to build and fly model airplanes.
Among the instructors who were leading each session were members of the Copper Country Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol Michigan Wing.
"I told the students on day one, 'I've been there, done that, and I'd like to pass along some of the information to you,'" Jack Hartmann said. "I flew for a major airline called TWA for 31 years and I flew for the military for 32 years."
During Wednesday's flight simulator course, held in a third-floor classroom in the Electrical Energy Resources Center on campus, students used a computer-based program to learn about the fundamentals of navigation.
"We started at Houghton (County Memorial) Airport and then we flew out over Lake Superior," Nick Krummey of southeastern Wisconsin said while using the computer's joystick to land his Cessna aircraft. "Then we had to find Houghton Airport again."
CAP Mission Pilot Kevin Cadeau, who was instructing the flight simulator course with 1st Lt. Rick Anderson, said the students were picking up the information rather quickly.
"What we're trying to teach them is all these different aspects of flying so when they get in the plane, they're going to know what all the instruments are," Cadeau said. "They're going to know how to navigate. They're going to understand all the basics of flight so they should have a really good time and be able to fly the plane safely and enjoy themselves."
Students also learned how to track VOR (VHF omnidirectional radio range) signals.
"It's an old-fashioned way of navigating these aircrafts," Anderson said. "The ones they're going to fly this week all have GPS systems on them which is much more modern. But we're teaching them the old stuff first because we want them to be able to use that as a backup. Then we'll integrate the GPS."
Houghton County Memorial Airport Manager Dennis Hext led the group on a tour of the airport Thursday and afterwards students put their navigation knowledge to the test.
CAP members Maj. Joe Masini, Frank Sager, Mike Roth and Jeff Burl took students one at a time on flights with their personal airplanes.
"First we flew over campus and then we followed the river out to Lake Superior," Owen Lee of Oakland Township, Mich., said after exiting the cockpit of Masini's aircraft. "I got to control it and help land it. That was pretty cool."
The flights were offered through the U.S. Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program.
Ann Arbor, Mich. youth Meara Pellar-Kosbar said although she was the only girl among the bunch, she was enjoying the experience. Being a pilot or flying in general is what she said interests her.
"There's studies that show there's going to be a shortage of pilots and it's a great career to look into," she said. "I love flying."