Future Aviators of America

By TY LOUNSBURY
Posted 12/14/21

LAKE WALLENPAUPACK, PA — Have you ever thought of flying or fixing airplanes? Students at Wallenpaupack Area High school (WAHS) have. The Wallenpaupack Aeronautical Science & Aviation …

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Future Aviators of America

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LAKE WALLENPAUPACK, PA — Have you ever thought of flying or fixing airplanes? Students at Wallenpaupack Area High school (WAHS) have. The Wallenpaupack Aeronautical Science & Aviation program (WASA) began six months ago for students who are interested in joining the aviation industry.

WASA is an after-school club for high school students interested in aviation. It will officially become part of the school curriculum next fall, with the addition of a new class for freshmen called Introduction to Aviation. Students wishing to continue this course can choose one of four career pathways to study: Professional Piloting, Air Traffic Control (ATC), Aviation Management, or Aviation Maintenance.

This program was developed by Eric Greenberger, the founder and director of WASA, as well as the chairperson of the Business, Computers, Information, and Technology program (BCIT) at WAHS. Although Greenberger directs the club himself, he has FAA-certified officials assisting him.

“I came up with the idea because I’ve been flying for a long time, and I’ve been teaching for 20 years. So this is the culmination of those two activities that I’m very passionate about,” Greenberger said.

The program has three planes that Greenberger purchased for just a dollar each via generous donations. Those are a Cessna 150, a Mooney M20K, and a Cessna 310. The addition of actual airplanes makes the program so much more than just another club or class. Getting the planes to the high school is a story on its own, though.

The Cessna 150 came from Easton, PA. Greenberger and some students traveled to Easton, dismantled the airplane, loaded it onto a trailer, and transported it to the school.

“We brought it back to the high school campus and made one pit stop at the Chick-Fil-A. [We] towed the airplane through the drive-through,” Greenberger said.

The Mooney M20K was more difficult to transport because it has one continuous wing. They found it in Gettysburg and had the Haverfield chief pilot airlift the airplane, using a helicopter, and fly it to the school on Labor Day. Every road the helicopter flew over had to be closed, including I-84.

The last airplane, the Cessna 310, was in Bradford, PA. The club made two trips to get most of the parts, and they still need to make one more trip.

“Industry support for this is unbelievable. Everyone wants to get on board, and everyone wants to support the program and the kids,” Greenberger said.

Not only are companies willing to donate, but people are as well. Fundraisers have been very successful. Aviation-related companies, such as David Clark, Whelen Aerospace, Textron Aviation, Cirrus Aircraft, Michelin Air and Lightspeed, are more than willing to donate to WASA because the aviation industry needs more employees, he said. In addition, Wallenpaupack is the only high school in this region that offers all four branches of the aviation industry in one program.

“In developing this program, I did a ton of research to find out what types of programs like this are out there. I did not find any in this region at all,” Greenberger said. He has FAA-certified airframe and power-plant technicians working with the students as they learn and practice skill sets that will help them get jobs regionally, nationally, and internationally.

The students reassembled the planes and are currently repairing a beacon, donated by the Sullivan County [NY] airport. The program has projects for everyone, including the building trades students at WAHS. The club is also building a flight trainer and an ATC simulator from parts of another donated plane. The aviation students have lots on their plates. Luckily, there are 41 of them.

I met the vice-president of WASA, Emma Cykosky, whose goal is to become a professional pilot. She’s a member of Women in Aviation International and has already begun flying. Cykosky said she’d like to become a private pilot, a commercial airplane pilot, or an officer in the United States Air Force. She has a specified interest in flying helicopters and said she’s interested in flying an air ambulance as well.

When I asked whether the club was what she expected it to be, she replied, “No. I thought this was going to be a fun, little aviation club, but the fact that this guy sitting right here—I am honored to be in his presence, because he has made everything happen for us. I thought this was going to be cool—oh no. This is amazing. The opportunities that he’s provided for our club and for me have helped me contact all these people. If I didn’t have GB, I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

This program is filled with passionate people. Eric Greenberger has created many marvelous opportunities for the students, and Emma Cykosky has proved how much he’s done for them through her heartfelt words. Wallenpaupack’s future aviators thank him.

Ty Lounsbury is an 8th grader at Wallenpaupack Middle School.

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