Students Flying High

The high school students enrolled in Aviation Technology as part of Fargo Public Schools career and technical education courses received a unique learning opportunity in late October – their classroom instruction happened thousands of feet above the ground!

The Aviation Technology course is taught out of Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, as part of the education opportunities of the Cass County Career & Technical Education Consortium (CCCTEC), led by Dr. Denise Jonas. The Consortium’s education partners include Fargo, West Fargo, and Northern Cass school systems. The course offering is an example of a cost-effective, resource-efficient, cooperative education opportunity that expands the reach of career and technical education to many area students.

Approximately 40 Aviation Technology students from the three school districts spent the day experiencing a flight in a small plane, further fueling their passion for aviation. Many of the students took the course to potentially determine a career path for themselves as a pilot, aviation mechanic, air traffic controller, or other aviation related job.

The following article about the Aviation Technology students’ flight day was written for the West Fargo Pioneer, and featured West Fargo students in the interviews, but you could substitute Fargo Public Schools students in their places and have garnered the same reactions and education outcomes. It was a unique learning opportunity for all of the students.


Students Flying High with Aviation Technology
Written by Craig McEwen, published on Oct 21, 2015 in the West Fargo Pioneer

About 40 West Fargo aviation technology students took to the skies last week thanks to four pilots who donated their time and airplanes to provide real flight experiences.

“I want to give something back to these kids that I didn’t have an opportunity to have,” said pilot Rod Scheel, a 1967 West Fargo graduate who now lives in Fergus Falls, Minn.

“I really want to be a pilot someday,” said Sheyenne High sophomore Dylan Aspelund, 15, while anxiously awaiting his flight.

Fergus Falls pilot Dave Jennen taxied up in his Piper Archer 11 airplane and opened the passenger door. Aspelund climbed aboard, strapped himself in and donned a communications headset. Jennen back-taxied south down the 330-foot West Fargo Airport runway, made a u-turn and took off, his left wing dipping slightly in response to a straight west wind.

The volunteer pilots are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. Since 1992, Young Eagles volunteer pilots have given more than 1.9 million school-age students airplane rides to “start their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller or many other career possibilities,” according to the EAA website.

“The goal is to expose kids to aviation at a young age that inspires their passion for flying,” said 30-year veteran pilot Jay Stein, Young Eagles coordinator for local Chapter 317.

“We try to find kids that are interested in aviation,” Stein said. “Just the physics involved with flight is intriguing to them. They want to know what keeps airplanes in the air.”

Working with the students is fun, said Jennen. “That’s why we do it.”

“Pilots are kind of a close-knit group of people. They love sharing it (flying) with everybody. It’s a passion,” said West Fargoan David Gust, whose airplane hangar became a classroom for the day. Gust owns and operates AgAir Limited, an aerial application crop-spraying business.

This is the second year the Sheyenne High School has offered an aviation technology class as part of its Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative.

Sheyenne aviation teacher Dave Gravdahl was pleased with the day’s outing. “This is a great deal. The kids are loving it. It really ties everything we do, together,” he said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to the Young Eagles people. The key thing for us is the support we’re getting, things like this that give us hands-on experience.”

Aspelund said the class experience will play into his decision to become a pilot via college or joining the military.

He was five years old when his stepfather gave him his first airplane ride. “It just blew my mind,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to be from that point on. I’m just grateful that they have aviation in school to give me experience where my passion is. When I saw it on the class list, I joined it immediately.”

Aspelund got off the plane with a wide smile. “It was pretty good, just like I expected,” he said. “We saw our school and my house. It was pretty smooth, and a good landing, too.”

Students from West Fargo High and Sheyenne High School, Northern Cass High School, and Fargo Public Schools took part in the Young Eagles flying experience.