Students at a Nebraska Public School District can Now Experience Flying Lessons at No Charge

Feb. 23, 2021

Grand Island Public Schools recently made history by becoming the first public school district in the state to fund flight hours for students.

“This is a huge moment for our students and for this district,” said Daniel Phillips, director of innovation for college and career readiness at GIPS. “Seeing students up in the air today made all the setbacks over the past 18 months truly worth it.”

At the district’s recentmost Board of Education meeting, five hours of flight instruction were funded for all juniors and seniors within Grand Island Senior High School’s Aviation-Flight pathway. “We thank our Board of Education and our industry partners for their unwavering support of our students,” Phillips said.

There are currently 40 students in the Aviation-Flight pathway. Hours are tracked by the plane itself and monitored by staff.

“This decision showcases the forward-thinking nature of our Board of Education,” said GIPS Superintendent Tawana Grover. “We strive to deliver college and career readiness for all of our students. This is an opportunity for our students to get exposure and hands-on, real-world experiences. As one student shared with me, ‘I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.’ The Academies of Grand Island Senior High are very inspiring for our students. When it comes to potential impact, the sky's the limit for those in the aviation pathway.”

Students have access to classroom-based instruction from TJ Norris, an instructor who is CFII certified and doubles as a flight instructor at Trego-Dugan Aviation. Norris has logged nearly 1,000 hours of flight instruction and delivers a curriculum provided by the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association.

“I am thrilled to be able to provide these opportunities to students and that we have been able to realize the vision of the Academies of Grand Island Senior High,” said Matt Wichman, principal of the academy of engineering and technology. “I am most excited that this program builds support for all kids, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. It’s incredible that every student will have access to flight training and the opportunity to obtain a comprehensive education in general aviation.”

At the Central Nebraska Regional Airport on Feb. 18, students had their first chance to see the skies from a new vantage point. “This is a historic moment for our school and for these students,” said Norris.

Seniors Carter Dahlke and Tristan Hill were the first students in the air.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Dahlke.

“It was pretty fun, to say the least,” added Hill. “It’s extremely expensive to get your pilot’s license and to fly in general, so to be able to fly for free through our high school is pretty special and a cool opportunity.”

There is a worldwide need for pilots and GIPS students are provided a unique opportunity to get a significant head start down the path through this funding.

All students at GISH have the opportunity to receive training using the Redbird Flight Simulators. “We’ve logged so many hours on those simulators,” said Dahlke, “but it’s much better in the air.”

Said Grover, “I want to thank our industry partners, including Trego-Dugan Aviation and Dr. Tom Werner, who have extended their support on this initiative. Our district is always zeroed in on equity and opportunities to promote it. This is another step for GIPS to ensure that all students receive an exceptional education.”