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Students get taste of the sky in flight class

HOUGHTON COUNTY MEMORIAL AIRPORT — Twenty high school students from around the country spent the week learning how to fly a plane, learning about the physics of aviation and the work involved in navigating.  

Thursday afternoon, they moved from the flight controller to the real thing, getting flight instruction as part of Michigan Technological University’s aviation and aerospace class as part of Summer Youth Programs.

Classes have been going on for the past 12 years, said Kevin Cadeau, public affairs officer for Copper Country Civil Air Patrol, which teaches the class. 

Students learn how to draw up a flight plan, including distance and how much fuel they’ll need. They also test their skills on a flight simulator program, where they mimic a flight from Houghton County Memorial Airport to Sawyer in Marquette. 

But the highlight for students is always going up in the air, Cadeau said. 

“Once in a while, you get a student who you think their parents made them go to the class and they’re pretty uninterested,” he said. “When they come back after their flight, they’re smiling nearly ear-to-ear.”

Rachel Churchill of Valparaiso, Maryland was one of the first to go up. Her parents and brother all went to Michigan Tech. 

She enjoyed the hands-on experience, as well as learning about the plane and its instruments. 

Flying in real life, though scary, was still easier than the flight simulator, which she said was “a little shaky and too sensitive.”

She was able to fly for about three minutes, then also got to line up the plane to land. 

“I think being a pilot for a future career would be a fun and exciting job,” she said. “And my cousin owns an aviation company, so I’ve always seen the planes, and that’s cool.”

Henri Khasky of Minneapolis has been a lifelong “aviation nerd,” even recently building a plane with his dad. He called the class a good stepping stone to getting his pilot’s license. 

“It’s great learning about all the mechanics and engineering behind all the avionics, why the plane flies,” he said. “It gives you a better understanding of all of it, like why something’s going wrong.”

When interviewed Thursday, he had yet to go up. 

“As long as I don’t fly it like I did in the flight simulator, I’ll be fine,” he said. 

While he stalled and crashed twice in the simulator, he and the other students all piloted successfully in real life.

Kallee McCone of Marquette was completing her second SYP experience, having studied aquatic ecology in 2019. 

She’s always been fascinated with the mechanics of flying. This week gave her a good grasp of fundamentals. 

But where the flight simulator felt like work, being up in the air felt freeing, she said. 

“I thought I was going to be really nervous, but I felt confident,” she said. “I was like, ‘I got this.’ And I did.”

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