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Joseph Charter School aviation program flying high

First-year students are learning from the Purdue University/Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association “You Can Fly” pilot curriculum.
Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on December 20, 2017 8:43AM


Joseph Charter School’s aviation instructor Toby Koehn has a winner on his hands. Less than two years after he introduced the idea of an aviation program to administrators at Joseph Charter School, he has brought in a half-million dollars in funding for the program — most recently winning a $431,162 grant from the Career and Technical Education Revitalization Grant program.

There are a lot of ways he can spend that money.

“We plan to spend some of it on more technology from flight simulator company Redbird Landing,” Koehn said. “We’ve been working with them and they are a great company.”

The aviation class used Redbird technology to reconfigure a flight simulator donated by U.S. Air-Force Flight Engineer Brett Hays of Enterprise last year.

The partnership with Redbird continues, with students in the class supplying content for the Redbird website by posting blogs about their class experiences.

Students with an interest in communications and marketing are able to turn their talents to writing and creating visual media about aviation as they learn, Koehn said. It’s another way they prepare for a career in the field. A group of students are already developing posts for Facebook, websites and promotion material for grants.

First-year students are learning from the Purdue University/Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association “You Can Fly” pilot curriculum. Joseph Charter School is one of only 30 schools nationwide testing the program.

“In that program, they learn the basics of flight science, build wind tunnels and models of jet engines and test the results of wind experiments,” said Koehn. “Most of those projects are fairly basic to get the concepts.”

Year-two students have been designing and building gliders out of foam in preparation for building a Schweizer 2-32 glider with Joseph aviation professional Michael Fleming. Fleming is an airframe and power plant mechanic, has a commercial rating for flying and has flown in Alaska. He and wife René, who is a flight instructor and commercial pilot, earlier hosted the class for a day of learning how to build a kit airplane.

Participants in the glider project will also have the opportunity to log 10 hours of glider training.

That yearlong project begins in January and is possible through another grant and partnership with Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario.

The college has benefited from recognition of the importance of developing trained workers for the aviation industry and has received more than $5.83 million to expand its CTE facilities. The college has long been affiliated with Silverhawk Aviation in Caldwell, Idaho, where helicopters and planes are located. Now, thanks to the growing interest in aviation training, the college is putting together a flight program in Ontario.

The college has been a big supporter of the Joseph aviation program from the beginning and has entered a dual credit agreement –– aviation students can transfer credits earned in their high school aviation program.

The Joseph Aviation Class has also received a Zenith Aircraft Co. full-sized flight- approved kit plane from attorney Michael Valentine, formerly of La Grande. Valentine and his wife had come to the conclusion that they weren’t going to have time to put the kit together after having purchased it.

A chance meeting with members of the North East Oregon Aviation Foundation on a ski slope led to a conversation about what was going on in Wallowa County, and the Valentines decided the donation made sense, Koehn reported.

The plane is in pieces, and putting it together has been put off temporarily while the Joseph Aviation class works on the glider project.

“Our 8th graders will probably build Valentine’s plane in their sophomore year,” said Koehn.

There’s so much going on and so much more to organize in the aviation class that Koehn is constantly traveling, talking to potential funders, and wrangling a dozen projects. And he loves it.

“I love my job,” he said. “I just do what I want: giving kids some chances and options — that’s what it’s all about. It’s a big world.”



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