Sharing Passion for Flight

By Jodi Prill Sharing Passion for Flight Wisconsin non-profit organization offers young aviators a chance to soar — for free Janesville , WI — Tom Morgan is bringing kids into aviation at Rock County Airport here. He has employed his...


"We'll make sure they can behave, give them a couple of quizzes, and make sure they'll study, because this is essentially college-level work," relates Morgan.

PROGRAM DETAILS

WAA provides everything for the students, including books, flight training, tutoring time, and even trips to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh . "But we don't pay for any of their testing fees," explains Morgan. "When they go to get their flight physical, they pay for that. And they pay for their practical tests. We don't flinch on that because we figure if they can't cut enough grass or throw enough newspapers or do something to take some ownership, then we haven't been successful and we have to question how serious they are about the program. And it's tough."

Morgan estimates that it would cost between $8,000 and $10,000 for each student to go through a similar program.

The program is set up as follows:

Ground school. "We do three phases," Morgan says. "When they're in the 8th grade, we use the Wild Blue Wonders program, something the EAA and NASA put together. It's an aerospace exploration program. It's age-appropriate, so they get all the concepts, but it's not like reading a college textbook.

Pre-solo. Morgan explains this portion is designed for freshmen and sophomores who are not old enough to solo the airplane. These students use the PHAK (Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge). "We take it at a slow pace and use it through the whole year," he adds.

Private pilot course. "When they're junior/senior status, that's our actual private pilot course," Morgan says. "That's what our goal is for those that are juniors: to solo them. For that course we use the Jeppeson guide and the PHAK.

WAA tries to keep about 45 to 50 students in the group at one time. "The only qualifier is we have a 15-passenger van," Morgan says. "So we can't have more than 13 or 14 from one school." The group draws students from the greater Beloit , WI area, just south of the airport.

The program hasn't extended north into Janesville yet because "all of our major contributions came from the Beloit area," Morgan explains. "We'd like to expand into the Janesville school district."

FUNDING THE PROGRAM

Morgan was able to get WAA up and running through three major contributions. He and his wife donated $100,000; an anonymous Beloit donor committed $200,000; and, the Beloit Foundation donated $300,000, all over a three-year period. "The unfortunate thing," says Morgan, "is we're now coming to the end of that three-year period. There's no way we can make this program happen with candy bars and those kinds of fundraisers."

As of July 31, 2003 , Wisconsin Aviation Academy took on the duties and the name of the Janesville Jet Center FBO. Morgan was able to establish a group of investors to purchase the building and WAA is leasing it from the group.

With the addition of the FBO, WAA now provides flight instruction, fuel handling, hangar rental, and cargo loading and unloading, among other services. The non-profit employs five full-time and three part-time employees, along with volunteers.

Most recently, WAA was able to start hiring high school students through grant monies received from area charitable foundations. Morgan hopes to employ up to ten students by the end of the year under what he is calling the Youth Aviation Employment Program. "We've received some nice grants to start employing these kids and work them up the ladder through some different competencies so by the time they're 18 they'll be driving a forklift and fueling airplanes."

According to Morgan, the addition of the FBO was a progression that needed to happen in order to continue to support the youth flight program, in spite of the additional staff needed to operate it and the added insurance costs. As that aspect of the business continues to grow, he expects WAA will be in a position to offer more opportunities to area children.

End Mark

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