Wright Flight classes begin in January

Wright Flight classes begin in January

Image Credit: Scott Daniels

“It can change young lives,” Terry Henry said at Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1077, next to Harry Clever Field in New Philadelphia.

Wright Flight classes are set to begin in January, and Henry is excited to welcome a new group of students to the airfield. “We have seen kids who have gone from disinterested to passionate over the course of the classes.”

Wright Flight classes teach middle school students about the history of aviation, the science of flight and more. Students produce a replica of a wing rib from the 1905 Wright Flyer, which they can keep for themselves. The classes culminate on graduation day nine weeks later when students take the controls of a small aircraft for a short flight.

“There is no cost for students to take the class,” Henry said.

The cost of classes has been covered by a grant from the Kimble Companies. “That's a major thing this year. The classes are free for students,” Henry said.

Classes are open to students grades 6-8.

“There have been so many students now,” Henry said. "I see them as grown people, and they tell me how much the classes meant to them. Perhaps 30-40% of our students are females, and a young woman who had completed the course as a child told me recently how much it meant to her."

At the end of the class, students take control of small aircraft. “That’s the whole goal of the class,” Henry said. “We fly, usually three to a plane, to a nearby city, like Carrollton. They fly there with an instructor, and a student takes the controls. They land there, and another student flies the plane for the return trip.”

Henry pulled a wooden strut from a nearby wall, a perfect replica of the wing support from the very first plane flown at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers in 1905. An exact copy of a 1911 Wright Flyer hangs in the pole building where classes are held.

“They build that wing rib themselves, and then it’s theirs to keep,” Henry said.

Classes are taught by retired Air Force pilots of mechanical crew. All instructors have passed background checks and are certified.

“It’s the history of aviation,” Henry said.

With so many young women attending classes, a special instructor conducts a class on women in aviation over the last century.

“We can only accommodate about 25 students a year,” Henry said. “And I hear from parents years afterward about what a game changer the class was for their child. They may have been disinterested in school, but they love the hands-on Wright Flight classes, and it often renews a child’s interest in learning.”

At graduation from the class, students receive an 8-by-10 photo of themselves with the aircraft they have flown, a Wright Flight T-shirt, a free ground course in flying worth $250 and the Wright Flyer wing rib they have built themselves.

“It’s an instruction in aviation, which is exciting in itself,” Henry said. “But the students also build life skills for the future and learn lessons in many disciplines both associated with flight and otherwise.”

Parents are encouraged to attend classes and watch from the back of the room with their child.

The nine-week classes begin in January, and enrollment is now open. Call Henry at the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1077 at 330-340-2999 to enter your child in the limited-availability classes, which are expected to fill quickly.