Nov 12 2015
Crystal Moyer, Morning traffic anchor, reporter
Duval County schools are unveiling a new aviation academy at Jean Ribault High School to help students in the district gain first-hand knowledge in one of the top five emerging industries in northeast Florida.
The program hopes to fill a gap regarding ethnic minority and female minority candidates for pilot positions and other aviation careers.
With a two-year $300,000, grant from JPMorgan Chase and additional district support, the aviation academy will allow students to earn multiple industry certifications and log a total of 40 actual flight time hours. These flight hours can be used towards the achievement of a private pilot’s license.
"Not only are these kids getting industry experience while they're doing it, but they can feed into the colleges that have partnerships with the airline industries,” C.J. Carlton, pilot and lead instructor at Ribault.
Through the new aviation academy, participating students will be required to complete at least one paid summer internship in the aviation industry, giving each student valuable working experience that will prepare them for their future.
Additionally, the grant will allow for equipment, such as simulators, and off-site learning opportunities.
“Through the aviation academy, we will recruit and retain more students at the school while making the high school experience more individualized, engaging, and relevant," Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement.
The grant has already allowed student Auzria Hay to earn her first hour of actual flight time at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.
"It was something fun and I knew I could make a path out of it so I decided to do it," Hay said. "I was scared. I was about to pass out but once you get off the ground, you find out it's no different from riding in a car."
The current aviation industry is poised for significant growth, as more than 60 percent of all the pilots employed around the world are set to retire by 2025. Concurrently, the Federal Aviation Administration is facing a similar crisis, which will dictate the need to hire 12,000 air traffic controllers within the same time frame.
“We've now reached the precipice that we don't have enough pilots, we just do not have enough pilots and they are desperately seeking ways to create opportunities," Charlton said.
Students who choose to enter this industry could quickly become part of the top 10 percent of wage earners. The average annual salary of an airline pilot is over $130,000. The average salary of an air traffic controller is over $85,000.
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce estimates a 14 percent increase of aviation jobs in the area, which equates to an increase of 429 jobs affiliated with this industry, with a median hourly earning income of $32 per hour.