Chappie James Flight Academy aviation curriculum heads to Dixon School

Growing up, Chappie James Flight Academy camp director Tyrone Arrington didn’t have a lot of examples of Black pilots to look up to in his hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Because of that, Arrington didn’t find his career in aviation as a flight instructor until after college. Now, he and the rest of the Chappie James Flight Academy are working to expose children to the field and role models in it at a much younger age.

The academy, which is putting on a free summer camp this week, is developing an aviation-based curriculum for the Dixon School of Arts and Sciences for next school year.

“Just knowing what’s possible and that exposure is the biggest thing, in my opinion, because with a lack of role models that we had back in the day, I didn’t even know it was possible,” Arrington said. “Now that we can show representation to a younger generation now, we can inspire them to know, ‘Hey, there’s a whole ‘nother world we didn’t even know about that’s possible for me.'”

Timothy Hooks, secretary of the Chappie James Flight Academy, explains a flight simulator to Josiah Henderson, 14, during the academy's summer camp Wednesday. The academy is developing an aviation-based curriculum to teach students at the Dixon School of Arts and Science.

Staff at the Dixon School decided students needed a more robust engineering program as a part of their STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — curriculum. To make STEM education at the Dixon School more well rounded, the people behind the Chappie James Flight Academy began developing an aviation-centered curriculum to help fill that void starting next year.

“We wanted to bring more power and strength to our engineering program, and it was just a perfect fit and a blend for Chappie James Flight Academy to work with us to enhance our program,” said Dixon School Executive Director Donna Curry. “It is also very important for our scholars to receive opportunities and experiences that they never would have been able to before. It opens up their eyes, their thoughts of what careers they may take.”

As part of the new partnership, two Dixon School students had spots set aside for them at this week’s aviation summer camp. During the camp, students go to the National Naval Aviation Museum, tour ST Engineering, see U.S. Coast Guard and Navy planes and even fly with the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Similar to the work at the camp, the goal of the new curriculum at the Dixon School is to inspire and motivate students, particularly in the STEM fields.

While the curriculum isn’t finalized yet, Curry said she could envision students taking tours of wind tunnels, learning about computers and instruments needed for flight and even having the older kids learn about flying planes themselves.