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Students take flight at aviation camp; High-schoolers take the pilot’s seat during weeklong event

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Aviation Maintenance Instructor Stephen Miller, right, hammers a piece of sheet metal as two students observe Thursday at the first annual Aviation Camp. The students were in the process of making a key fob during a sheet metal project. (Katy Ross Photo)

Usually, when you climb into an airplane, you’re there as a mere passenger. But for numerous high school students, they were able to take the pilot’s seat Thursday as part of the first annual Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Aviation Camp.

The camp, which is being held from Monday through today, allowed high school students to explore the possible careers available in the aviation field, such as a pilot, an air traffic controller, a mechanic and others.
There are 21 registered students for the camp with two sessions. Ten campers took part in the morning session and 11 participated in the afternoon session, according to Vickie Thomas, director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development.
“A lot of the students who have come to the camp have an interest in (aviation) as a career field or it’s something that they are considering, so they wanted to check it out,” Thomas said. “We’re hoping that this is an opportunity for the students to come and get some information and get some questions answered. And then they’ll come and join us when they get ready to go to college,” Thomas said.
Amarah Palma, a 15-year-old sophomore at Goddard High School, joined the camp to learn more about aviation. After attending the camp, she said she has interest in either being a pilot or a mechanic.
“It was really cool and fascinating,” Palma said of the aviation camp. “I didn’t think I would be able to experience all of this.”
There were two Cessna 172 airplanes that students flew in. Each student was accompanied on their flight by a certified flight instructor, who was there to provide guidance and coaching for the students. The flight instructors could also take control at a moment’s notice.
In order to prepare for the flight, students sat through a safety presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday. Lyle Lane, the Aviation Programs director, said the camp is taking all precautions to ensure the students’ safety.
“Any time that the students are going out to the plane, they have to be escorted. … We have somebody who knows what they’re doing, keeping an eye on them and making sure that they do not end up in the wrong place,” Lane said.
In addition to participating in an airplane flight, students also worked on a sheet metal project. The project was led by Aviation Maintenance Instructor Stephen Miller.
In the sheet metal lab, students took two pieces of sheet metal to create a key fob. The purpose of the workshop was to show students what it would be like to work in the aviation maintenance field.
Students also got to use a flight simulator Thursday, which allowed them to fly through a replica of the Roswell airport and surrounding area. However, the simulator is not 100 percent accurate for security reasons, according to Thomas. The flight simulator can be programmed to replicate any airport in the world.
Lane said the flight simulator allowed students to “get a feel” for what it’s like to fly a real airplane.
“It’s a little more touchy than a regular airplane, so it makes it where they’re not going to overcorrect in a real plane,” Lane said.
Throughout the week, students were able to interact with scientists from The Spaceship Company, a subsidiary of Virgin Galactic, and take trips through the AerSale and Stewart Industries hangars. Campers also got to explore an FAA tower, see a variety of aircraft and watch an unmanned aerial vehicle demonstration by Airplay Media and Adventures.
Today is the last day of the camp and the events slated for today include a presentation by ENMU-Roswell’s student services. Student services will provide some career opportunities for the campers, according to Thomas. After that, a military pilot from Cannon Air Force Base, near Clovis, will speak with the students.
The camp will end with a graduation ceremony where students will receive a class photo, a certificate and their first log book.
“The students will receive their log books and these are a pretty big deal. It’s their first flying effort and so the time they will be flying (Thursday) will actually be logged in there for them,” said Thomas.
General assignment reporter Katy Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or reporter03@rdrnews.com.