The flight simulator, which was unveiled to media on Thursday, is now a permanent fixture at the Aviation School thanks to a donation from Airshow London.
The TVDSB program operates out of Montcalm Secondary School, but is available to all students at the board, which has schools in London, St. Thomas and Woodstock, as well as Elgin, Oxford and Middlesex counties.
The new addition to the classroom is pleasing sight for Grade 11 student Sophie Hersey, who’s already had flight simulator experience outside of school and is excited for her classmates to give it a go.
“(The flight simulator) is very serious, everything is real, live situations. I do flying lessons myself and I know for sure that it feels just as if you are in a real plane,” Hersey said.
“I’ve found that it’s not really flying the plane itself that’s difficult, it’s having all that knowledge about what’s around you … how everything else works and what would happen in an emergency.”
Hersey caught the aviation bug at 12, when she boarded an airplane for the first time, and now dreams of being a pilot in search and rescue missions for the Canadian Forces before venturing off into space with a career that combines aerospace engineering and her pilot skills.
In the meantime, the future astronaut currently serves as an Air Cadet with 27th Squadron in London and is en route to receiving her glider pilot wings this summer.
“It’s incredible just to see the opportunities that I could have right in my own town,” Hersey added.
Airshow London director of flight operations Gerry Vanderhoek says attracting youth to a career in aviation is part of the mission of the annual aerobatics event.
On top of the flight simulator donation, the airshow is also bringing 1,000 Grade 6 students from TVDSB to the city’s next airshow in hopes of inspiring more future pilots.
“The Canadian Forces are another industry really that is looking for more pilots and needing recruitment … who knows? Maybe we can help fill that mandate,” Vanderhoek said.
Laura Briscoe is the innovation coordinator at TVDSB and says the Aviation School is one of several programs that look to provide specialized education for niche fields of study. Other examples include environmental education programs that focus on outdoor learning and the art education program at H.B. Beal Secondary School.
“In a city where aviation is so prevalent and careers are available, it just makes sense to be able to offer this type of opportunity,” Briscoe said.
She also hopes the various programs available at TVDSB will help students learn about a future they didn’t previously know was possible.
“That’s what this is all about — exposure. You could have interest in aviation, but not know what you want to do in the future or you could just need something different. Maybe you need to learn in a different way in a non-traditional setting,” Briscoe said.
As for Airshow London, its annual Skydrive is set to take to the skies this September.