New pilot program offered to Genesee County kids

FLINT, Michigan—Focus, grit, confidence, and thrill-seeker are interchangeable qualities of anyone in charge of getting thousands of pounds metal off the ground. It’s a dream job for many, and there’s a course housed in Flint’s Bishop International Airport that is helping to make the career a reality for young people across Genesee County. 

 “It’s never been a better time to be a pilot,” said Matt Dahline, 47, owner and Founder of Crosswinds Aviation based in Howell, Michigan. 

Genesee Career Institute launched its Aviation Academy this year in partnership with Crosswinds Aviation and Bishop International Airport. The program offers Genesee County high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to gain a thorough introduction to the ins and outs of a global industry that is suffering a shortage of workers. 

“We are in need of young aspiring aviators and we are very hopeful Crosswinds Aviation will help spur excitement in our region about aviation career opportunities,” said Nino Sapone, airport director. 

Pilots, which have a mandatory retirement age of 65, are in high demand, Dahline said. Pilots make an average of $77,200 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Crosswinds Aviation partners with intermediate school districts by lending instructors to the classroom and additional flight training outside of the class. Students are bused from their county schools to Bishop International Airport for classes, demonstrations, and field trips. 
With 28 students enrolled, the Aviation Academy through GCI is set to cover industry subjects of aerodynamics, physics, weather theory, mechanics, oceanography and more. 

The two-year academy ultimately prepares students to take the Private Pilot Written Knowledge test, the first step toward earning a full pilot’s license. To receive a private pilot’s license, students need to continue their education with flying lessons and further testing. 

“They get two hours everday with a certified flight instructor that the school district is paying for,” said flight instructor Jeremy McDaniel, 29. “When you put all that together for each day we’re in class, we’re backing hundreds of hours that is free to them.” 

Aside from the hefty price tag of aviation training, the aviation industry hasn’t promoted its benefits to a prospective audiences, said Dahline.

“The public just doesn’t really know what the opportunities are in the industry and I would say that that’s true of Genesee County as much as any other place,” said Dahline.  

Aside from the salary, there’s a level of high level of stability with such a mobile job, allowing aviation industry workers to stay rooted in their local communities. 

 “Most (airline) pilots don’t actually live anywhere close to where they get their paycheck from,” said Dahline. “So if you train a whole bunch of pilots in Genesee County, a good number of them are going to stay there no matter where they work.” 

The Aviation Academy also is a good first step for careers in aerospace engineering, air traffic control, aviation safety inspection, aeronautics technology, meteorology, airfield operations, and drone piloting. 

“It shows them that aviation is a broad broad economy. It’s a huge industry in which you could do multiple other jobs,” said McDaniel. “I really wish I would have had this course when I was in high school.” 

To learn more about the Aviation Academy through the Genesee Career Institute visit their website.

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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