BROOKSVILLE — With significant job growth predicted in the aviation industry, the Hernando County School District this year will offer an aerospace technology training program at Nature Coast Technical High School.
The school board recently approved a partnership between the district and Corporate Jet Solutions, which has been at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport since last summer. The first class will begin when school starts Aug. 18.
Bradley Dye, vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions, an affiliate of Dyenamic Aviation Services, said the program could help educate future pilots, technicians and mechanics, who might be badly needed in coming years.
“There are a lot statistics out that show that in the next 10 to 15 years, 90 percent of captains in commercial airlines will be retired,” Dye said. “That could be close to 500,000 pilots in the next 15 years, and (there could be) two mechanics for every pilot.
“That could be 100,000 pilots in the U.S., alone. We’re talking about an industry where (experts never) thought that attrition would have this effect.”
The aerospace technology program will be modeled after a similar program at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, district officials said.
In its first year, the program will be open to 25 current ninth- and 10th-graders who will be selected through a lottery, said Marcia Austin, district supervisor of secondary programs, in a news release.
Austin stated 65 eligible students who indicated interest in the program in an online survey will be included in the lottery. Students who did not complete the online survey have until Aug. 13 to apply.
“We are excited to provide these opportunities to students, and we embrace the ongoing support from our business partners in helping us launch this program,” Austin said.
The program will include a sequence of courses meant to steer students toward industry certifications. District officials say the program will admit about 25 new students each year. Plans are eventually to move the program to the regional airport.
Aerospace technology programs also are planned for Suncoast Technical Education Center, the county’s adult education program, although details are not complete, said Eric Williams, a school district spokesman.
Dyenamic Aviation Services is the company helping design a manned flying saucer-like aircraft known as Geobat FS-7.
Unmanned prototypes of the “saucer plane” were made and tested in Brooksville and have undergone wind-tunnel tests at Georgia Tech and Auburn University.
Dye said a curriculum for the first aerospace technology course — an introduction to aerospace — is being developed. He said the topic has been discussed for about eight months.
“The main thing was to get started,” Dye said. “My experience being around (Hernando) in the last year is that there’s a tremendous amount of talent out there, and we want to keep them locally.
“The great thing for Hernando is that with commercial pilots, they can basically live anywhere and the airlines will fly them to their hubs. They could live in Hernando and fly from Tampa to Atlanta.”
Jimmy Lodato, a county commission candidate and retired entrepreneur, also serves as a spokesman for Corporate Jet Solutions.
“This is exactly what we’ve been trying to do from day one,” Lodato said. “We want to develop our youngsters for the jobs we’ll bring in. That’s the exciting part of reversing the trend of hopelessness among our children who get out of high school, look around and struggle to find a job.
“We’re turning things around, starting these programs early and bringing (students) into a field that will be wide open in the next five to 15 years.”
Lodato characterized the aerospace technology program at Kathleen High in Lakeland as a successful model for Hernando to follow.
“They’re developing a disciplined student base” in Lakeland, Lodato said. “(Their aerospace technology program) ties in with the ROTC. They have simulators and mechanics (classes). They’ve had scientists from Cape Canaveral come in, and that’s what we want to duplicate here.”
Students interested in applying for the program are asked to contact Marcia Austin, the school district’s supervisor of secondary programs, at (352) 797-7051 or email@example.com.