MUSD School Board Approves Aviation Technology Program
December 16, 2015
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  • During their Dec. 3 meeting, the governing board of the Marana Unified School District voted 4-0 to approve a comprehensive Aviation Technology Program, which had been submitted by the Curriculum Management Team.

    The program will begin in the fall of 2016, and is another step in implementing practical applications of STEM concepts into the high school curriculum.

    STEM, referring to the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is a term coined in 2001 at the National Science Foundation to integrate those four areas into professional applications. The two-year aviation program is a Career and Technical Education program.

     It will be open to sophomores, juniors and seniors at Marana and Mountain View high schools.

     The standard for this undertaking are divided into two categories: air transportation, which involves training prospective pilots, and aircraft mechanics.

    The air transportation curriculum includes learning about the history of the aerospace industry, aerodynamics, FAA regulations, aircraft structure and radio systems, airport management, aviation safety, weather, flight planning and human physiology.

     In the aircraft mechanics track, subjects include electrical maintenance and repair, how to prepare aircraft drawings, center of gravity calculations, aircraft welding, airport safety, cleaning techniques, understanding the physics of aviation and many other related topics.

     Funding comes from the Arizona Department of Education (Career and Technical Education), from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006, and from the Pima County Joint Technical Education District (JTED) of Pima County.

     Perkins (1912-1984) was an attorney from Kentucky and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives between 1949 and 1984. He championed education, especially for the under-privileged and in career technical schooling.

    The success of this program will be directly related to the number of interested students. Due to the popularity of aviation in high school, the educators feel that it will not be a problem to fill the program.

    In fact, it’s felt that students from all over the Tucson area may be attracted to the district just because this feature now exists in the regular curriculum.

    Cathie Raymond, director of career and technical education, has brought together three talented and very interested professionals to assist in establishing and organizing the aviation venture. Roy Gorris, a 15-year U.S. Army veteran, has been instrumental in assisting with the development of the curriculum sequence. 

    Gorris is a certified aviation mechanic with 25,000 hours of experience and a master’s degree. He is currently working on his PhD. Alan Muhs is a member of the local Experimental Aircraft Association and the driving force behind the Eagle’s Nest build-a-plane program.

     Jeff Northcutt is a certified flight instructor and maintenance/operational test pilot. Soon, a volunteer advisory board will be put together to help further direct the educational endeavor.

     Those interested in participating on such a board should contact Raymond’s office at 682-1163 or email c.raymond@maranausd.org.

     A lot of coordinating will be needed to dovetail the “book-learning” and the hands-on practical “stuff.”  The experience will center mainly in the high schools, with some of the practical sessions being held at KAVQ (Marana Regional Airport) under the leadership of qualified mentors.

     Other topics brought to the board’s attention included bestowing a Special Needs Service Award to Christy Riggs, approving a unification construction project for Picture Rocks and Desert Winds Schools, and adding other courses to the high school curriculum in computer science, physics, astronomy, criminology and Spanish language.

    In conjunction with the approval of the new curriculum, the district sponsored a “STEM Career Fair” which was held Monday at Mountain View High School.

    The fair showcased STEM-oriented businesses to the students and used the opportunity to assess the current student interest level (especially in the aviation program).

     Representing aviation were Mike Matthews from the Marana Flight School, with a flight simulator on display, Gorris and Eric Roudebush, the director of environmental services at Tucson Airport Authority. Other industries having a presence at the fair were aerospace, astronomy, mining and computer science.