AHS Has Planes


Brenon Reed

Kate Short taking off from Rifle County Airport with AHS Student Rance Pillans.

Every high school has something unique to offer, whether its a robotics program or a climbing team. AHS has multiple planes with the opportunity for students to fly them.

AHS welcomed a new aeronautics teacher, Kathleen Short, at the beginning of the school year. Short was a teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She then wanted to change things up so she got her pilot ratings. She began to instruct flying in Dallas, Texas. Short then had the opportunity to do the two things she loves,teach and fly.

Short has lofty goals for the aeronautics program this school year, one of which is including students in a new program called Every Student Flies.

“Every student in the high school who wants to can sign up on the high school homepage, and get a free flight. We get to go flying for free and get a tour of the airport. You get to experience a career as a pilot, or an aviation mechanic,” Short said.

The Every Student Flies program fully immerses students in a flight career. Short takes you through the preflight steps which include checking the fuel, tries, wings, antennas, and the airways for the engine. The flight is about 45 minutes to Rifle, and on the way, one practices basic flight maneuvers essential to flying all throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Short also explains a backup plan is always necessary, whether it is flying over a mountain top at a 45º angle for a quick exit if the winds are too bad, or extra walkie talkies to talk to the control tower.

AHS has a lot of opportunities in the school which includes an aeronautics program. One thing that sets this school apart from others is that on top of having multiple desktop simulators, and a full-motion simulator(located in AMS), AHS currently has two planes.

“They’re called Diamond DA40’s. They’re four-seater airplanes, [and] we’re actually getting brand new ones off the line this spring from Diamond. They’re going to be really fancy [because] they’re high-end planes. They’ve got all-glass cockpits just like the airlines do, and these will be turbocharged, so they can fly higher faster.” Short said.

Many students have signed up for this new experience to fly, including students who have no background knowledge or interest in the aeronautics program. For those who aren’t in the aviation program, going up in a single-engine airplane for the first time can be pretty daunting. Bo Melton, a sophomore at AHS, participated in the program for the first time and experienced some of these emotions.

“I’m kind of nervous to go up when it’s kinda cold and snowing. It seems like it will be fun but I’ve never flown a plane before so that also makes me nervous.” Melton said.

During each flight, Short makes sure the students are safe while in the cockpit. At any time in the flight, she can take over or correct any mistakes. Her goal is for students to try flying, even if they have never considering taking any type of aeronautics class.

“I want to make it more accessible, in that, we have classes that are more entry-level, or [classes that are] more about being interested in aviation, rather than hardcore, ‘I want to get my pilot’s license.’ And we have every student flies program so that hopefully people who never really thought about[aviation classes] it before might consider taking a class or becoming a pilot at some point.” said Short.