An Aviation Academy for High Schoolers

Reese Gradwell is aiming high. A first-generation Pilot with 18 months of flight training under her belt, she will be heading to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University next school year to study Aeronautical Science and eventually become an airline Pilot. “My family traveled a lot,” she says, “and that’s where my love of aviation came from. I’ve known I want to be in the industry for a long time now.” 

GRADWELL IS ONE OF 30 STUDENTS in the aviation program at the Cherokee College & Career Academy (C3) run by the Cherokee County School District on its ACTIVE Academies Campus. Located about an hour north of Atlanta, it’s a two-year program that gives high school students who have been bitten by the aviation bug the opportunity to begin career training in the field. First-year students attend in the morning to learn the basic curriculum while second-year students pursue more advanced studies in the afternoon. 

During Airways’s visit to C3 earlier this year, the morning students arrived in the classroom, some after riding the school bus for as long as 40 minutes. Lessons began with the instructor, Scott Dubee, a private Pilot with over 2,500 hours of flight time, calling a student forward to a large video screen at the front of the classroom to read the METAR (Meteorological Aerodrome Report) for Anchorage, Alaska. The student, Grant Holman, who was aiming to sit in an airline cockpit, did a solid job of deciphering the information, Dubee occasionally helping him along.

“We use Alaska for this exercise because students can learn about all of the wind and snow and crazy weather we never see here in Atlanta,” Dubee said. “I know there are apps that translate METARs into plain English, but if these kids are able to rattle off the information someday for an FAA examiner, he’ll know that they have studied, learned, and really know what they’re doing.”

Holman, a junior with about 20 hours of flight time, was the first in his family to have an interest in aviation. “Honestly, it was when I was on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I remember when the wheels lifted off the ground; I just got this feeling. I was like, Oh my gosh—right then and there—and, ever since, I’ve been in love with aviation, trying to focus on getting my PPL and eventually flying commercially in the…

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