The annual Southern Wisconsin AirFEST created “a ton of excitement” in the skies above Janesville, Wisconsin during the last weekend of May, according to the Wisconsin Aviation Academy, which is funded by AirFEST proceeds. More to the point, the show helped to fuel dreams of flight for some high school students.
Whether they know it or not, visitors to the show are helping students to do just that.
Janna Drew still gets a thrill seeing the shows that aerobatic pilots put on, even if that isn’t the type of flying she now does. She is a graduate of the Wisconsin Aviation Academy, a program helping high school students to earn pilot licenses. The Aviation Academy is funded in large part by the proceeds from AirFEST.
Before discovering the Air Academy, Drew wasn’t sure how she would make her flying dreams come true. “I always wanted to fly before that, but I guess I never seriously considered paying for flight lessons on my own. It wouldn’t have been realistic,” she said.
Drew said the Aviation Academy gave her more than a chance to fly. “You learn a lot of responsibility, because obviously, if you’re up there in a plane by yourself, you have to take charge of yourself,” she said. “When I fly now, I usually just take friends up. Fly over their houses. It’s always cool the first time you see your house from the sky.”
Unfortunately, the opportunity that Drew and others have taken advantage of may become more limited. Funds reserved to pay for the Wisconsin Aviation Academy have largely dried up and officials are hoping this year’s AirFEST will do enough to continue offering the program at no cost.
“The Wisconsin Aviation Academy is really the only one like it in the country. There are other aviation high school programs, but they’re often publicly funded and more academically related. This is both academics and flying, and up until this past year it’s been 100% free. The academy was actually the founding organization of Southern Wisconsin AirFEST,” said Tom Morgan, Southern Wisconsin AirFEST director.
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