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High school students get helicopter flight lesson
For a minute, Alex Gowin said, "I forgot we were flying."
That's how the Camptonville Academy senior described the start of her first helicopter flight.
Hovering over the Feather River with a 180-degree view of the world passing by in Mark Minkema's Hiller helicopter, Gowin, 18, said she thought she was going to fall out. But despite her initial fear, her overall sense was one of embracing the rush she felt in flight.
"It seems like it would be fun to be a pilot," said Gowin.
Gowin is one of a dozen students enrolled in an aviation history course at the Marysville school who were able to take a ride in the aircraft.
The opportunity was made possible by the Young Eagles program, a national organization that helps give youth an opportunity to learn more about aviation, and Minkema, owner of Twin Cities Aviation, who volunteered his time and helicopter.
The yearlong class is taught by Les Sanders, who had previously spent years teaching adults trying to get their pilot's licenses.
Student Bill Socha, 17, remarked how "awesome" the experience was going to be even before he lifted off the ground. Once in the air, he looked down over his neighborhood to spot his home from above.
Compared with a ride in Sanders' fixed-wing airplane in the fall, Socha remarked how much more he enjoyed the feeling of being above the ground in a helicopter.
"It feels more like I'm out there," said Socha.
The Camptonville Academy senior is planning on joining the National Guard to learn how to fly helicopters while working on a degree in mechanical engineering at California State University, Sacramento, following graduation in the spring.
A rare opportunity
Flight instructor Les Sanders was approached by former Yuba County Superintendent of Schools Ric Teagarden in 2008 with an idea to begin offering an aviation class to students.
With no funding at the time due to the recession, the idea was set aside until Camptonville Academy Director Chris Mahurin gave Sanders an offer to begin teaching the class this year.
A chance to fly through the air happened to be an added bonus.
"It's pretty rare that you get an opportunity to fly in a helicopter," said Sanders.
Other students have expressed similar interest in learning more about aviation, so much so that Sanders hopes to add an advanced class next year. The course would focus more on engineering and math to prepare students to get their pilot's licenses.
"They were beside themselves," said Sanders of his students' flight experiences. "They were just tickled to death."
CONTACT Nate Chute at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4795. Find him on Facebook at ADPhotoTeam or on Twitter at @AD_PhotoTeam.