MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — This week, 25 students from Montague, Orchard View and West Michigan Christian schools are participating in a new four-day aviation camp at the Muskegon County Airport.
The 6th to 9th-grade students are getting hands-on experience setting rivets, shaping propellers and working on engines.
Organizers say their goal is to give students an overview of the careers available throughout the entire aviation industry.
"Hopefully will light a spark to be a pilot or a mechanic," said Montague Middle School Principal Jim Perreault.
The Montague and Orchard View school districts worked together with support from the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District to make the free camp possible.
The aviation field is broad, and students are learning about jobs available at the Muskegon County Airport.
The list of opportunities is long for students in the first-ever aviation camp at the Muskegon County Airport.
"Mechanics jobs, they have administrative jobs, they have airport jobs, ground equipment, technical, and lighting," said James Nisbet, a former American Airlines employee.
The camp grew out of a conversation he had with members of Orchard View's School Board.
"I said there are opportunities for kids here and they're being explored," he said.
Tuesday's activities included a tour of the airport's runways, hangars and fire station.
"These are opportunities for our kids to learn skills that they can stay here and put to good use and make a good living," said Orchard View Curriculum Director Simeon Frang.
"It's fun to build engines and take them apart," said Keghan Cox, an Orchard View sixth-grader.
Students at the aviation camp learned they can get their pilot's license at just 16 years old.
"It's a stepping stone to being a commercial pilot," Nesbet said.
Estimates show the U.S. needs around 200,000 new pilots.
"As well as 193,000 new technicians, and those are jobs that pay well," said Frang.
Organizers hope to grow the camp into an annual event that's offered multiple weeks each summer.
"And expand it to other districts in the county," said Frang.
"It'd be great if this could grow into some kind of a career path that's offered at the career tech center," added Perreault.
The aviation camp finishes Thursday when students take an airplane ride with volunteers from the West Michigan Flying Club.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.