Growing up in Shelbyville, Indiana, Emily Jordan holds cherished memories of her father taking her on trips in his personal airplane.
The sky was expansive flying high above the Indianapolis suburbs, and it wouldn’t take much convincing — aside from, perhaps, promises of a stop for fast food — for Emily Jordan’s father to get her into the cockpit for an adventure.
Soon, Emily Jordan will be making those same high-flying memories with her own child.
After receiving a $10,000 scholarship from the national Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), she will be headed to Palmer, Alaska, this July to log flight hours and test for her private pilot’s license in order to better improve her curriculum teaching aviation and advanced aviation classes at W.F. West High School.
Her son, junior Henry Jordan, 16, plans on tagging along with his own assignment: he, too, will be going out for his private pilot’s license, but with hopes of pursuing a career as an aircraft operator.
"It's really special to be able to do this with Henry. He inspires me even more because he's really excited about it … Whenever he sees a plane, he gets excited and says, 'mom, we're going to be up there eventually,'" Emily Jordan said.
Emily Jordan teaches just about every science program the school has to offer, including physics and earth science, but the school’s newest curriculum is its high school Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association aviation program that shows students the basics of how aeronautics work — all from the safety of the classroom.
The W.F. West High School teacher of four years introduced the program in 2019 and this is her second year teaching it.
"I'm a physics-trained teacher, so lots of questions come up from students that I don't know the answers to," she said.
She applied for the scholarship program in February and recently heard back that she would receive the funds to further her education in piloting. Emily Jordan said her family was already planning to go to America’s Last Frontier this summer to get Henry’s license, so it worked out by a stroke of solid planning.
"He's going to be doing the exact same thing I'm doing. He'll have his plane and I'll have my plane," said Emily Jordan, who is only one of five teachers in the nation receiving the scholarship.
Henry Jordan is all about aviation. He recently showcased one of the school’s few flight simulators by flying a Cessna 172 model over a digitally-rendered view of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport.
"I am super psyched about it. I really got into flying when I started thinking about planes. I find planes to be kind of magical, and flying is a very enjoyable experience, and I've got to experience that through the local airport," Henry Jordan said, referring to the local airport’s Young Eagles program, which gets young students excited about aviation.
Before taking off to Alaska, Emily and Henry Jordan will first take their Federal Aviation Administration ground test in June at the local airport. They have a planned flight bound for Alaska on July 15, and will start their 14-day, hands-on exam shortly after touching down.
From her understanding, Emily Jordan said the flight school will consist of multiple eight-hour days in class, and they’ll need to record at least 35 flying hours for the license.
The group will also have a culminating solo flight before the end.
Emily Jordan said the school district’s relationship with the city’s airport has been great in getting students interested in careers working with aircrafts. That’s also been part of their goal with W.F. West’s aviation curriculum, which operates under the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) wing.
"Part of our goal of CTE is to guide students to careers that are available," she said. "That's really our focus, is to help students really understand those steps to get to that career goal."
Rick Goble, assistant principal at W.F. West and the school’s CTE director, said they’re growing an opportunity for students to explore technically-advanced career paths, such as aviation, that might be increasing in availability in the local area.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in this career in the area,” he said. “I think it’s definitely going to be a growing area.”
Taking Opportunity to New Heights
W.F. West currently has a few aircraft simulators in operation for students taking aviation classes to use.
But soon, Emily Jordan said, the school plans on purchasing two FFA-rated simulators, valued at an estimated $11,000, thanks to a private donor.
"These will be much more like flying an aircraft and they'll have a three-panel screen so it seems more like what you'd see out of your cockpit window," she said.
The simulators will also have more physical controls, knobs and switches for better immersion. The school’s current simulators have a limited number of dials, but work to provide a base-level of understanding.