Every Monday and Wednesday morning this semester, 12 high school students from the Dublin, Hilliard and Worthington school districts make their way to the Ohio State University Airport.
They are the first high schoolers to participate in the Taxi to Takeoff Aviation Academy, a new program offered to students enrolled in Ohio State’s College Credit Plus program to introduce them to the inner workings of careers in aviation. The program was announced last spring as a partnership between Ohio State and Dublin City Schools.
Taxi to Takeoff is a college-level program at the Ohio State University Airport, 2160 W. Case Road in Columbus, and the main Ohio State campus.
It began Aug. 25, and this is the first year high school students are eligible to take these courses, according to Lori Mesi, Emerald Campus administrator for Dublin City Schools.
All Ohio State students majoring in aviation also take the courses offered through the program, according to Ohio State spokeswoman Holly Henley.
However, only high school students are participating at the airport currently because no college students signed up to take the classes there, according to Mesi.
The courses offered to students in the academy include Introduction to the Aviation Industry, “including its elements, components and structures,” as well as Private Pilot Fundamentals, a “study of flight fundamentals, aircraft operations, weather and regulations required for Private Pilot certification,” according to the 2021-22 Dublin City Schools High School Course and Career Planning Handbook.
“This has been a dream of mine and our leadership staff to work and partner with local high schools,” said Stephanie A. Morgan, executive director of Ohio State’s Air Transportation and Aerospace Campus at the airport. “This course gives them a head start in the aviation industry which is extremely large.
“The pathway to workforce development is something we’re proud of, and we’ll be eager to make the partnerships and give these students not only the knowledge base, but future jobs.”
Hopefully, she said, those jobs will remain in Ohio.
“That would be ultimately, for us, a win-win,” Morgan said.
Any high school student throughout central Ohio who meets the prerequisites may take the program through Ohio State, Mesi said.
Dublin City Schools, through its partnership with Ohio State, also offers additional programming called Aviation and Research Field Experience on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the the Emerald Campus at 5175 Emerald Parkway in Dublin, she said.
This course is designed to help students “gain a behind-the-scenes understanding of the aviation industry through a series of experiential learning opportunities with aviation professionals and organizations. This will include guest speakers, tours, field trips, and assignments focused on the various facets of aviation,” according to the Dublin course handbook.
The Hilliard students in the program also are participating in that course through Dublin City Schools, Mesi said. Hilliard students have participated in other programs at Emerald Campus in the past, and that connection made it possible to facilitate hosting them, she said.
Meanwhile, Worthington Schools students got involved because director of secondary education Neil Gupta said Ohio State notified him of the program last spring and four students signed up.
John Horack, senior associate dean of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State, said the point of the classes, which are taught by faculty and staff with the Center for Aviation Studies and the airport, is to introduce students to the possibility of working in the aviation industry and its multiple roles and responsibilities.
“We’re trying to build exposure and hopefully a pipeline for young men and women who might want to consider aviation as a career,” he said.
Horack said the aviation industry is composed of more than pilots. It also entails such disciplines as aerospace engineering and maintenance, airport management and logistics, he said.
“Aviation is an interesting industry because we think, ‘OK, we need pilots.’ And yes, we need pilots. But we also need aerospace engineers,” Horack said. “And we need customer-service representatives, and we need logisticians. And we need people who are experts in networks, and revenue management, and pricing, and supply and maintenance and repair.
“It’s literally an industry that A, is a fundamental underpinning and one of the pieces of DNA of the modern world, and B, requires skills and capabilities regardless of their walk of life, their area of interest or the particular gifts that they’ve been born with. There’s a place for everyone in this industry.”
“For every pilot, there are 10 careers in the aviation industry,” Mesi said. “It’s much bigger than just saying, ‘I want to go be a pilot for Delta.’ It’s, ‘I want to work in logistics,’ or, ‘I want to work in finance.'”
Participating students will attend the class in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the second half of the school year, Mesi said. Upon completion, the students will earn eight college credits and two high school credits, she said, with students taking the Aviation and Research Field Experience class eligible to receive a third high school credit upon completion of that course.
Mesi said upon completion of the course this year, students will be prepared for and have an opportunity to take the certification exams for the Part 107 drone license – enabling students to legally pilot a drone – and a ground piloting certificate, which is one of the requirements to becoming a licensed pilot.
Dublin Jerome senior Kylyn Smith said she is taking the program to get a head start on her eventual goal of joining the U.S. Air Force after college.
“It’s such a cool opportunity with a lot of connections already. I’ve already found several people that can connect me to the Air Force and just have so much experience on the military side and just general aviation knowledge,” she said. “I like being able to tour the airport and be able to have classes at the airport and watch planes go by. It’s just a very immersive experience.”
Hilliard Darby senior Jonathan Gerber said he plans to attend Ohio State and is interested in designing commercial aviation engines. He said he hopes the aviation academy gives him a general understanding of the field and a sense of whether he will enjoy the work.
“It’s different from high school,” he said. “It’s a good learning experience.”
Darby senior Donavan Miller said he hopes participating in the program will lead to a career in an aviation discipline following graduation in May.
“I thought this could be an opportunity to get into something and get a job with it right out of high school, to find something in the aviation field,” he said.
Jerome junior Grace Read hopes to become an airline pilot.
“I thought it was going to be a pretty good jump start to a career in the industry,” she said. “I’ve learned just how big the aviation industry is. When most people think about the aviation industry they think about pilots being in commercial aviation. But, actually, there’s so much more to it.”
Thomas Worthington senior Collin Stegemiller also hopes to become an airline pilot.
“I thought this was a great first step to really make sure I wanted to become a pilot before I go to college,” he said. “I’ve absolutely loved the class and I feel like I’ve learned so much so far, and we’re only four weeks in.”