Students meet a stunt pilot

Ottumwa High School students pose with an airshow pilot Friday morning. About 130 southeast Iowa students explored the airshow grounds, met with aviation experts then took a tour of Indian Hills Community College's north campus, where there is training in becoming a professional pilot, learning to maintain aircraft and repairing aviation electronics.

OTTUMWA — Considering 130 students were getting a sneak peak at around 10 different parts of the diverse Fly Ottumwa show, it quickly became apparent that two of the behind-the-scenes activities captured their imaginations most.

The airshow provided an education component for students from Ottumwa, Oskaloosa and farther afield on Friday. In some cases, they saw displays that will not be available to the general public.

"The only things we saw in the air were the RC planes," said Luis Sosa, 17, of Ottumwa High School.

These weren't the beginner kits from a toy store. These pilots are some of the best, which makes sense, since the miniature aircraft they fly are some of the most expensive.

"You never get to see that kind of thing," said OHS student Hailey Borror. "They looked good — and they were loud. They sounded like real planes."

That was at the Ottumwa airport, out on the tarmac alongside the runways. Then students arrived at the airport building belonging to Indian Hills Community College (which the school calls North Campus). Teens got a look at the three different programs for students interested in pursuing a career in aviation: aviation maintenance and repair, aviation electronics and the professional pilot program.

While there were multiple stations where students could get up close looks at a US Naval aircraft or see a 1950s military jet engine, the most popular station seemed to be the flight simulator.

"The whole thing actually moves," said Luis. "It gave us a chance to see what it's like to be in the pilot seat."

Darren Graham, Indian Hill's chief flight instructor, guided as many students as possible through a takeoff, a landing or just some cruising at altitude in the enclosed cockpit with wraparound video screen.

"The simulator seemed like it was the real thing," said Ashlynn Krieger of OHS.

"I plan to take aviation training in the [US] Army ... the simulator is a great way to teach," Luis said. "It's harder than it looks. You have to be very steady because it reacts [instantly]. You can't mess around."

Nicholas Hayes, a senior, had traveled from Davenport West High School. He already has some piloting hours under his belt. Though his landing in the simulator didn't go as planned, his flight path impressed the instructors.

"I had to ask where some things were in the simulator; it's set up differently than the aircraft I've been in," he said.

That includes regular planes, and, recently, an aerobatic plane. IHCC is on his list for possible flight training; he wants to be a pilot. He paid close attention, it seemed, to everything. He asked questions, and was able to answer questions, too.

An instructor asked according to basic science, when an action creates a thrust pushing in one direction, what happens? Nicholas told him it creates an equal and opposite reaction, shoving the engine forward.

"Correct," said Dan Brauhn, an aviation repair instructor. "Hopefully with an airplane attached to it."

Nicholas felt like he got a lot from his time in Ottumwa; he met a professional stunt pilot, and talked to a corporate pilot about what his job requires. There is room for more mechanics and more pilots.

"There is a severe shortage in ... aviation," pilot instructor Randy Brookhiser told students. "And there are many good paying jobs in aviation."

Staff writer Mark Newman can be contacted at MNewman@ottumwacourier.com.

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