DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Aviation Technology program is only one of two federal programs that allows high school students to earn certifications in the United States.
The program has been with Des Moines Public Schools since 1943 and teaches both students and adults to be trained as Federal Aviation Authority and certified mechanics.
Lincoln High School Senior Edward Suong said his favorite part is the engines.
“Dirty work, but it’s fun. Taking this off taking that off, fixing it, putting it back on all that,” Suong said.
The program is divided up into four categories: general, airframe, powerplant and pilot training. The program is offered to students outside DMPS who are interested in aviation.
Aviation Technology Instructor Tim Harmer said the program currently has 72 students and eight adults.
“Students can start off in ninth grade in the Discovery program. Then they get to decide and figure out do they want to go down the track of being a mechanic or down the track of being a pilot,” Harmer said.
Out of 72 students only two are girls.
East High School Sophomore Chyanna Walker said the gender gap doesn’t scare her.
“If the guys can do it, the girls can do it too,” Walker said.
Walker said she is ready to prove herself to the guys. “Because there is not a lot of women, and a lot of people think that women can’t do something like this so you really try and show them.”
Harmer said the program is in the process of adding a new title.
“We have become, or actually are becoming the Women in Aviation Chapter for Iowa,” Harmer said.
In addition to the certifications, students earn an associate’s degree because of the affiliation with Indian Hills Community College.
Harmer said there is an equal divide when it comes to students wanting to go into the mechanics side of the industry or pilot.