Summer has started, and for a group of 16 high school students at Leadership In Flight Training (LIFT) Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana, it means the official takeoff of their aviation aspirations. The inaugural class of the LIFT Summer Youth Experience began what could be described as a life-changing introduction to aviation — at no cost to them. The Summer Youth Experience, which is fully sponsored by Republic Airways, is removing the cost barrier for the program’s participants as they work toward earning a private pilot license this summer.
Republic and LIFT partnered with Indianapolis-area schools to find the next generation of aviators. “When introducing this first-of-its-kind aviation program to students and their parents, the students were immediately excited. The parents matched their student’s excitement levels once they realized that the program was at no cost to them, that Republic was sponsoring the flight training,” said Darrell Morton, Republic’s Senior Manager of Education Programs and Diversity Partnerships.
Brandon Frizzo and James Hashley, two of the LIFTCertificated Flight Instructors (CFIs) working with the students each day, were both eager to be part of the ground training for this group. If there had been something like this program offered when James was in high school, he said, “I would have tried to get my private pilot license completed before graduating high school to bring down the cost of my future flight training.I think it would also have inspired me to study even harder in high school, knowing I would have a chance to become a pilot.”
Brandon added, “I would have certainly entered aviation sooner. Something like this would have made me realize the pathway to where I wanted to be was more quickly and easily attainable than I thought.”
The 16- to 18-year-old students are onsite at the LIFT Academy hangar 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, to train toward earning their private pilot license. Throughout their time in the Summer Youth Experience, students are learning the skills and gaining the experience they need to become successful airline pilots.
“Each day, students engage with CFIs while participating in ground school classes together. They also learn about careers in aviation, how aircraft fly, how to navigate the national airspace system, meteorology, aircraft systems and much more. After their ground lessons, instructor and student spend their afternoons engaged in flying lessons and learning maneuvers required for a private pilot license.” James said of the structure of the summer program.
Two of the students were thrilled when they heard about the program. Ayah Muhammad and Josh Chapman have both dreamed of becoming airline pilots.
“I’ve always wanted to become a pilot, from the moment I stepped on a plane,” Ayah said. “The environment of the cockpit, the view and scenery from the plane, the traveling and the people, I know that will all make me fall in love with the career more every day.”
The two are also looking forward to some of the other opportunities the program will offer them, including meeting other students around the Indianapolis area with the same passion they have for aviation and becoming airline pilots.
Getting an early start toward their dreams was important to Ayah and Josh, anything to help them get another step closer to being airline pilots.
“I have the chance to accomplish what most people dream about doing. This opportunity also means a lot to me; I will be receiving the same training that enrolled LIFT students receive, just at a younger age, propelling me further in my aviation dreams sooner,” Josh said.
While Ayah and Josh still have a lot of work before they can reach their dreams, they are animated when talking about their futures. Ayah can’t wait to become an airline pilot: “In five years I want to be the one in the pilot uniform having kids look up to me.”
Josh is eager to see where he will be in five years. “I’ll be reflecting on how far I’ve come, where I started my aviation journey in the LIFT Summer Youth Experience and the distance I still have to cover,” he shared.
Darrell, along with Kevin Webster, LIFT’s Associate Director of Business Operations, manage the program and are excited to bring this opportunity to students in the Indianapolis area.
“Historically, aviation and especially piloting a plane, is a career pathway to which the African American and Latino/a population have not had much exposure at a young age. We hope students, especially our students from historically marginalized populations, leave this program understanding what’s available to them, and they share their experiences with friends and their communities,” Darrell said.
Darrell went on to share, “We believe this program is important for these students. It’s important because most have never been on an airplane or had any idea how to get into the aviation industry. This program provides a defined pathway to Republic Airways if students aspire to pursue a career as an airline pilot. The LIFT Summer Youth Experience is essential to us because we can take aviation directly to historically marginalized communities, which will positively impact diversity in the industry’s future.”
The 2022 class of the LIFT Summer Youth Experience is already full, but mark your calendars because Republic Airways and LIFT Academy are planning to offer this program again next summer at no cost to its accepted students.