By James Niedzinskijniedzinski@derrynews.com
---- — LONDONDERRY — “When you think of a career in aviation, what words come to mind?” said Jack Ferns, the director of the New Hampshire Aviation Museum.
Most people would respond with planes or pilots, but there is a lot more to aviation than flying.
The Virtual Skies Program, which began at the New Hampshire Aviation Museum this month, aims to teach Manchester high school students about potential career opportunities.
The classes are aimed at informing students about career in aviation, as well as preparing college-bound students in science, technology, engineering and math.
Students who are looking for a career in aviation will learn about navigation, weather patterns, engineering, aeronautics, airport management and communications.
Virtual Skies is only open to juniors and seniors in Manchester high schools, but may open up to more school districts further down the line.
“We have recognized that college freshmen are lacking science, technology, engineering and mathematics education,” Ferns said.
The program and the museum are funded by grants and donations. One recent $50,000 donation by the Thomas W. Haas Foundation helped to make this program possible.
The class takes place at the museum, 27 Navigator Road, three days a week.
So far, three students from Central High School and three students from Memorial High School have signed up for the program, but those numbers may increase, Ferns said.
Ferns plans to have students visit local FedEx and UPS branches, as well as General Electric in Hooksett later in the year.
“This is a quite unconventional class,” Ferns said. “There are no textbooks, but we do have brand-new laptops for students and offer a real hands-on experience.”
The classroom has been set up with desks donated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Navy Capt. Charles Gerhan is volunteering his services to teach the first module of the course, an introduction to aeronautics, which ends in October.
Gerhan has 28 years of experience as a pilot for the Navy. He later became an aeronautical engineer and instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“The first day of class went great,” Gerhan said. “The students were really interested in what I had to say and asked some terrific questions.”