First in the Nation: K-12 Aviation Academy at BTR airport takes off

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A new school is taking over classrooms and skies with a K-12 STEM program. 

For children who have ever seen an airplane soaring through the sky and wanted to fly one, this dream can now become a reality. Helix Aviation Academy (HAA) is now ready for takeoff.

The academy had its grand opening Thursday morning. It is the first K-12 public school in the nation to offer courses and flight experience.

HAA Aviation Director Jerry Brandon said, “It’s no longer a toy. It is a real thing.”

It’s all happening right here at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

“We are a charter school, but they will get their English, their math, all the things they would normally get. What we are doing is adding these other things in,” said Brandon.

Not only will students get hands-on flight training, they will also get to meet real-life pilots.

Future HAA Student Parent Chandra Johnson said, “This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I mean, when can you have people who can speak into your children’s life and mold them?”

“We are creating a future with these kids, not for them. We’re creating it with them. They were already born in a tech-savvy industry, so they will be the ones to carry the torch of what we’re doing,” said Brandon.

The academy also hopes to help the struggling aviation industry. Right now there is a pilot shortage following the pandemic.

HAA Principal Charita Sellers said, “Kids don’t know about it. So, if you want someone to be prepared for something and you want to increase the pipeline of students going into this profession, then you have to prepare them with exposure. Not only exposure but the technical skills to go with it.”

These skills will be developed through their hands-on courses.

“Kids can actually get in a simulator and understand the workings of a simulator. But we also have a real world where they can take a plane ride and control it themselves,” said, Brandon.

Students will graduate with certifications in their desired areas.

Sellers said, “Kids who have seen the airplane fly by and it’s not really meant anything to them, now it means something to them. They can see it in their future.”

The school will start this fall with sixth graders. They will slowly add more classes throughout the following school years.

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