Medina middle school students are learning how to fly.
Five A.I. Root students started “Aero Group” and attend a class at the Wadsworth Municipal Airport every Tuesday.
“I thought it would be cool if I could bring all my friends along and it would be awesome to learn stuff we didn’t know about flying,” eighth-grader Trevor Satterwaite said.
Trevor’s mother, Annie, said she contacted Premier Flight Academy at the airport to see if it had any type of program for her son.
“He wanted to take flight lessons, but didn’t want to do it by himself,” she said.
Annie Satterwaite, a substitute teacher at A.I. Root, with the help of Principal Chad Wise, wanted the aero club to be created similar to other after-school activities.
“We’re hoping that kids from the rest of the district would be interested in joining,” she said.
Each week from 5 to 6:30 p.m., club members meet at the airport where manager Nick Belluardo, assistant manager Luke DeFord and certified flight instructor Jason Lorenzon do the teaching.
The 16-week course began in January and ends about the same time as the school year.
“This program is designed to just give them a basic understanding of what it takes to be a pilot,” Belluardo said.
The students are learning about take-offs, landings and how an air traffic control system works. Other topics cover inspections and mechanics, radio communications and emergency procedures.
The sessions are split with some students around a table in a classroom setting and the remainder learning in an airplane simulator. The roles are rotated each week.
The simulator looks like the front of a small airplane with all the gadgets and controls of a cockpit. Surrounding it are five flat-screen monitors connected to a computer. The software is capable of using a Google map of the Wadsworth runway and area with current conditions for students to practice.
“I like it a lot more than a video game because it’s bigger and more realistic,” sixth-grader Alek Mahjoubian said.
Alek said his father, Corey Mahjoubian, is a pilot for United Airlines and based in Cleveland.
“My dad’s a pilot and that’s what I want to be,” he said.
The three other students in the $300 course are eighth-graders Zack Kirschnick, Alex Weissberg and Katie Kissner.
Belluardo said he hopes to conduct a similar class in the summer when some activities could be held outdoors. That could lead to students learning in the air during a ride.
“I’d really like to see this program grow into the high school grades and I think it will,” he said. “I learned about flying in high school in a very similar program.”
He said students are on a beginning path to obtaining a private pilot’s license. They still would need a “ground school” class before taking a written exam.
After passing the exam, they would need a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, some as a solo pilot and some with an instructor.
Belluardo said he would be receptive to offering similar courses open to the public.
“These types of courses really help the airport tie into the community more,” he said.