Courtesy of Renton School District. Lindbergh students Kendal Moses, Angela Real, Alex Linsey and Marina Vasilchuk who recently completed the pilot license training courtesy of Boeing ground school, with Boeing’s Harium Martin-Morris.

Courtesy of Renton School District. Lindbergh students Kendal Moses, Angela Real, Alex Linsey and Marina Vasilchuk who recently completed the pilot license training courtesy of Boeing ground school, with Boeing’s Harium Martin-Morris.

Taking Renton’s students to new heights

Free pilot’s license classes helps students gain confidence

Aviation programs continue to take flight in Renton schools. The latest one? Helping high school students get their pilot’s license.

The Boeing Employee Flight Association (BEFA) teamed up with Renton School District to allow Lindbergh High School and Renton High School students to take a 11-week course where they learn what it takes to fly in the sky, for free. Students received five college credits through Renton Technical College, and also got 0.5 high school credits, which helped one of the students graduate on time.

This year, eight students completed the program, after two dropped the class in the beginning. The group was evenly divided by both schools, and by young men and women attending. Students turned in applications to BEFA, and all 10 were approved.

The group ended up having kids from a variety of GPAs, backgrounds and family lives. One student was homeless during the program, but still able to attend thanks to it being free.

BEFA was looking to get younger people involved with general aviation, which is often full of those who are older and financially able to support private flying.

Harium Martin-Morris, retired Boeing employee, BEFA secretary and former Seattle school board director, helped the program connect to different kinds of kids. Martin-Morris said they wanted to reach kids who might be “C” students, or never felt something like this was possible.

Lindbergh senior Kendall Moses wanted to see if he had what it takes to get his pilot’s license. He said he’s also wanted to be an aviation mechanic for four years, so this gave him the opportunity to see what’s available in that field.

The course was 20 minutes after school got out, at a classroom at Renton Municipal Airport. Moses said he remembers the first day seeing a variety of pilots presenting about themselves, and getting right into the lessons.

Lindbergh sophomore Marina Vasilchuk had just been interested in becoming a pilot — her brother joined a flight school just a month before the new Renton course started. Before that, she didn’t think it was an attainable goal. She was the youngest student in the program, and turned 16 during the class, which is the age requirement for the pilot’s exam.

“I never really talked about flying with anybody else because no one was interested, then once I came into this environment they’re more encouraging: they did it, so they tell you what you need to do,” Vasilchuk said.

It was the same course as the adult pilots take, BEFA President Bob Ingersoll said, but with a little more excitement thrown into it. Learning ways to keep the high school students engaged has actually helped influence how the regular course will be taught now, Martin-Morris said.

Ingersoll said they wanted to enhance exposure to Renton youth to aviation. Luckily, they received enough donations from members of BEFA to be able to offer the course for free, and the final Federal Aviation Administration private pilot exam for free, which is optional for kids who’ve completed the course and usually $125.

The flight instructors also taught the course for less pay, and some even donated the pay they made back into the program, BEFA Operations Manager Wes McKechnie said.

From there, association member Martin-Morris connected with the Renton School District and worked with school counselors to reach out to a spectrum of students.

“All these things tell you we are really committed to making sure next generation of aviation enthusiasts are created in our little incubator,” Martin-Morris said.

Moses said he studied every night for the two-day a week course, and it got harder the longer it went. He pushed himself, thanks to being inspired by meeting pilots, including an astronaut, Nicholas Patrick.

In one of the classes, Martin-Morris said students were practicing radio communication during their break time, without instruction.

“They had enough confidence and were so excited about learning, that tells you a lot about those kids,” he said.

Ingersoll said that’s a goal, they want students to have fun, while learning weather, physics and even flight law.

Moses said he was most excited by going down to the hangar where mechanics were working. Vasilchuk also thought the hangar, astronaut and simulator were all really interesting.

Ultimately, Moses said this class gave him the chance to learn skills that he could bring to working on the planes, or possibly in the Air force.

“We’ve removed excuses: you can do this, you are capable,” Martin-Morris said of the students completing the course.

Vasilchuk said she was surprised to know she had to learn weather patterns, coordinates for a flight, and then being a pilot started to feel possible for her. She’s hoping to take the FAA test over the summer.

The ultimate goal, BEFA Operations Manager Wes McKechnie said, is to help the students who are interested go through all the testing to where they can be a flight instructor, and move on to an aviation career.

“Let’s say they don’t do that: that’s OK. They’ve had an experience here they can take and mold it,” McKechnie said. “Lot of times you plant these seeds and they don’t come out until their 30 years old.”

One example is Martin-Morris, he said he wanted to learn to fly when he was 14, but he didn’t start flying until 60.

Vasilchuk wants to explore the scholarship opportunities, and was really taken to how open the instructors were to helping her with the next steps in becoming a pilot. Her plan is to use that opportunity.

BEFA plans to run this program again next spring hoping to reach out to more students in the Renton schools and possibly make the program worth an applied science credit, to help students reach the recently heightened graduation requirements.

More information on BEFA is available at befa.org.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Virtual town halls coming up for unincorporated King County

Events throughout September and October via Zoom will cater to different areas of the region.

A vacant building that went up in flames Aug. 27 at the corner of Pacific Highway S. and S. 279th St. in Federal Way. Fire investigators declared the blaze to be an arson. Photo courtesy of South King Fire Commissioner Bill Fuller
Renton man possibly connected to Federal Way arsons

Officers found several lighters and butane fuel in his possession while arresting the man on Aug. 28.

Stock photo
Renton woman pleads guilty to purchasing firearms for ‘violent street gangs’

According to case records, a 41-year-old Renton woman provided the guns to her son, who modified them and sold them to gang members

Seven decades later, the search for two missing Navy pilots continues

The pilots are thought to have disappeared near Black Lake, northeast of North Bend.

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

Courtesy King County Metro.
Metro bus route changes in Renton coming Sept. 19

As part of a plan to increase mobility between several South King County cities, Metro has added a new route and increased the frequency of other routes.

The truck of the Renton family as it was found Tuesday. While fleeing the Cold Springs Fire two adults were severely burned and one toddler died. Courtesy photo/Okanogan Sheriff’s Office
Toddler killed as Renton family flees Cold Springs Fire

The parents were severely burned and are being treated at Harborview Medical Center

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last week. The fire is listed as 84 percent contained, and fully lined. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Threat multiplier: How climate change, coronavirus and weather are scorching WA

Dry summer conspired with the pandemic and a wind storm.

Most Read