About 20 middle- and high-school students from the Phoenix area – participants in the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy – used flight simulators, learned about piston engines and even used riveters on a recent visit to the aviation program at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
The ACE Academy is sponsored by the Archer Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.
The campus tour, hosted annually by ASU, was facilitated by Jim Anderson, a senior research scientist in the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and a retired Southwest Airlines captain.
“We want to expose the young students to college education,” said Larry “Jet” Jackson, director of the Academy, who had a 20-year career as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and is now a captain for Southwest Airlines. Jackson and Anderson knew each in the Air Force, and regularly share their experiences with youth.
“Aviation is just the hook,” Jackson said. “Some of the students may be interested in aviation, others may not be. We want to encourage them in the STEM areas: science, technology, engineering and math.”
Earlier in the day, the students visited Southwest Airlines at Sky Harbor Airport where they saw a Boeing 737 up close, and learned job interviewing skills and airline operations. They also visited Luke Air Force Base to see the military side of aviation and military life. The ACE program culminated with Young Eagles flights provided by the Experimental Aircraft Association at Glendale Airport.
“For many of the students, this is the first time they’ve seen anything like this,” Jackson said. “They have no idea what’s under the hood of a car or inside a jet engine. Seeing things in a book is one thing, seeing them in a classroom or lab means a heck of a lot more.”