Summer camp gives students hands-on training at 2,500 feet

Standing just inside the flightline gate, Rhonda Hall waited patiently for her son to arrive by bus to Jacksonville’s Craig Airport as part of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy. “I’m so excited for my son” said Hall, as she held her disposable camera. “He’s loved aviation since he was a little boy, pointing to airplanes in the sky and pretending to be a pilot.”

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Delta Connection Academy (DCA), along with Jacksonville University, Jacksonville Aviation Authority and Duval County Public Schools, recently participated in the second annual ACE Academy, which is held across the nation. At the Jacksonville airport, DCA provided six CFIs and six aircraft, allowing all academy participants a 30-minute discovery flight concluding their weeklong training. For many of the students, this was their first time in a small airplane.

For Randall Hall, this was his second year participating in the academy. Last year, his landing in a DCA Cessna 152 was not exactly perfect but he was determined to make up for it this year. With his mom snapping pictures and his DCA Flight Instructor Brent Knoblauch in control, he started up the 152, contacted the tower and put his feet to work steering the aircraft out for taxi and takeoff. With a tower clearance for takeoff, he lifted off the runway at Craig Airport with a smile from ear-to-ear. As he circled downtown Jacksonville and over Cecil Field, his questions were endless.

Twenty minutes into flight, it was time to contact tower again for clearance to land. “This is where I had a little difficulty last year,” Hall told Knoblauch. “Not a problem, I’m right here with you and together we’ll make the perfect landing,” said Knoblauch.

Hall followed the directions of Knoblauch and his landing this time was text-book. “That was awesome,” he said.

Knoblauch was recently recognized as the Top Flight Instructor in the nation at the 2009 National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference.

The Organization of Black Airline Pilots summer ACE Camp is a nationally recognized program co-sponsored by the FAA and the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE).

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