BY KARISSA MILLER
Participants in the Iredell-Statesville Schools Aviation Camp got a close-up look at a hot air balloon on Wednesday at the Statesville Regional Airport.
Hot air balloon pilot David Litton, who owns Almost Heaven balloons, and his family showed students how to get the balloon ready for flight and provided basic information on hot air ballooning.
“Our balloon is 90,000 cubic feet. This means that 90,000 basketballs or 23 adult elephants could fit in our balloon,” Litton told the students.
Students walked inside the balloon and watched a demonstration of the hot air stand up, and they even got to burn a little bit of heat to experience what it’s like to lift off of the ground.
“We are involved with the school system. My husband and I are both teachers in the district. We feel like it’s important to give back and this is our way of giving back to the community,” Litton’s wife Candice explained.
The Littons hope to inspire students who are thinking about aviation as a career choice.
“It’s so cool to step inside a hot air balloon,” said student Audrey Benson, a rising 10th-grader.
Another memorable experience for campers was getting the feel of a pilot’s perspective from inside the cockpit of a Cessna airplane.
“I have thought about being a pilot. This camp has showed me other aviation jobs and career paths you can take,” Benson said.
According to Camp Director Debra Lester, the I-SS Career Technical Education Department is making it a priority to expose students to the top industries and career fields in the local area. Aviation ranks in the top six, she said.
The CTE camp features tours, guest speakers and hands-on activities. It was sponsored in part by Drones2Jets, a local non-profit organization, and ACE Academy, a division of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.
On Monday Victory Air let the students board a plane and sit in a cockpit. On Tuesday, Jet East, which is letting the district borrow their hangar for the week, gave students a tour. Students learned about the variety of careers in aviation, including the many engineering jobs and support positions needed at an airport.
Lester said the camp gives students ideas about career opportunities and provides a chance to engage with pilots and other aviation professionals.
“I’m very proud of all of them. Some of the students who are shy are trying new things and really stepping out of their comfort zones,” Lester said.
Statesville Regional Airport Manager John Ferguson said it’s been a good partnership.
“We firmly believe that we need to start exposing kids to aviation. We have so much aviation in this community and in this area, Charlotte and Monroe. All the flight schools around here need instructors,” he said.
Ferguson mentioned that students who are serious and want to try something new can be a part of the Civil Air Patrol.
CAP is the volunteer, nonprofit auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Its three missions are to develop its cadets, educate Americans on the importance of aviation and space, and perform life-saving, humanitarian missions. CAP works with cadets between the ages of 12 and 18 in a program. Visit https://iredell.cap.gov/?fbclid=IwAR1Ohd58niYn4MifJVr4ZoBRmhBYbcA-E8QdcHHmbWlWpUDteBHmV0_G73c for more information.