Going back to school gets specialized

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport may not be a name that trips off the tongue particularly well. But maybe it should be. Because word has leaked out of the high security vault in that corner of the Florida panhandle that going back to school is going to be a whole heck of a lot more interesting for a bunch of high school students this year – thanks to a company named Island Air Express and a guy named Ron Jarmon.

In truth, Jarmon and his company, Island Air Express, aren’t really trying to take credit for introducing what amounts to a dramatically different approach to the high school experience. But when offered the chance to pick up the ball and run with it, they did.

As Jarmon tells it, officials at North Bay Haven Charter Academy contacted his flight school with the idea of providing two classes a day at the high school, focusing on aviation in general terms. They’re not looking for a pilot course, or a mechanic course, or an air traffic control primer. The idea is to provide a good overview of what aviation is all about to students who are in their formative years. Their website lists an opening for a Civil Air Patrol instructor, which no doubt is associated with this initiative.

Thankfully, Jarmon took the bait. He and his crew will be teaching classes throughout the school year, hopefully intriguing a group of students who have at least a passing interest in aviation – and now they’ll have an opportunity to really learn the ropes from people who work in the industry.

Not content to leave well enough alone, Jarmon is aiming high. He tells me his intent is to establish a scholarship program that will allow at least three students to begin their flight training, by paying the tab for it right up through their first solo – at least.

This encourages me tremendously. We’re beginning to see high schools across the county that are embracing the reality that aviation is a viable industry that is playing a vital economic role in every corner of the world. Many of those schools have recognized that aviation dovetails beautifully into many of the traditional classes required in high school, but with the added advantage of providing students with a real, practical means of applying the lessons they’ve been learning in books, and through experiments in the classroom.

Aviation is good for education. It just flat out works. With each new school that gets the message, our world becomes incrementally smaller, safer, and more economically sound. With each kid who takes up the challenge of learning how they can become involved in aviation as a career, or a hobby, our populace becomes better prepared to deal with our ever-evolving technology and the decision-making processes that come along with those advances. And with each provider, like Island Air Express, who steps up to the plate and offers to help make the whole dream a reality, the possibilities of what our educational institutions and their students can achieve expand dramatically.

Hat’s off to North Bay Haven Charter Academy, Island Air Express, and good ol’ Ron Jarmon. As long as there are people in positions to make a difference, who accept the challenge and actually try to turn those opportunities into realities – we’re in good shape.

Frankly, I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing. So good that I may just have to plan a trip to the panhandle of Florida to see North Bay Haven Charter Academy, Island Air Express, and North Florida Beaches International Airport for myself. Man! I like the trend I’m seeing.


Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.

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