Flight Academy program expands horizons of young Vermonters

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Vermont Flight Academy has launched a program that gives Vermonters ages 12 to 22 a fresh perspective — from thousands of feet in the air.

Flight VT Kicked off first Saturday with 15 flights. Professional pilots teach students the ins and outs of flying and accompanied them on their trips.

Flight VT’s first student was sixth grader Hannah Knowles, who said she’s “terrified of heights” but loves to fly. Hannah, 11, faced her fears head on earlier this year.

“Being in the air is so much fun,” she said. “Especially, in the pilot seat you get to actually experience what someone whose like flying a plane to New York or something.”

Program Director Tyler Brown partners with youth community centers to make flying more accessible. Flight VT selects participants from Spectrum Youth & Family Services, Sara Holbrook Community Center, King Street Youth Center, Boys & Girls Club of Burlington and Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes.

“We want to introduce Vermont youth to start thinking about possibilities and things that they think might be impossible are, in fact, possible,” said Brown.

Brown says the program isn’t designed to turn students into professional pilots. But, instead, expand their horizons. 

“We try to explore different career paths. There’s so many different opportunities in aviation.”

Hannah is one of 25 flight students from the Sara Holbrook Community Center. Associate Director Melissa Pennington help serves nearly 500 kids a year – from toddlers to 18 – in Chittenden County. She says she’s seen tremendous growth in Hannah from this experience.

“This is why we do what we do to give kids experiences like this that inspire their goals, their dreams,” said Pennington. “As Hannah says, she has big dreams now for her future and what she wants to do when she’s older.

Despite her fear of heights, Hannah says flying is something she aspires to do professionally.

“Something I’ve learned about people is that people do stuff because it’s scary. And because the scariness makes it fun. When I get older, I want to be a rescue pilot and help people,” said Knowles.

Click here for more information about Flight VT

Flight VT plans to host more events this summer on July 10, August 7, and a few throughout the year. The program has taken out 15 trips so far and are aiming for 100.

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