By Amanda Moses
Higher, Further, Faster may be the catchphrase for Captain Marvel, famed Colonel in the United States Air Force turned superhero, but it’s also how students in the United Youth Aviators summer camp felt. For six weeks, these students participated in the first-ever New York City-based aviation camp for free. If the students continue with the program, they can be eligible to earn their private pilot license as early as 17 years old.
Milton Davis Sr. (Chairman of the Board of Directors for United Youth Aviators), Cletodell Titus (Vice-President/COO), and Winston M. Fasion Sr. (President/CEO) began developing this program in September 2018 to expose children to free aviation education, a skill-set that usually costs thousands of dollars for enrollment. “We all loved flying when we were younger, and we wanted to create a program that kids can have fun and develop a skill that they will have with them for life,” Titus said.
Housed this past summer at Abe Stark Primary School (PS) 346, the lessons taught in the United Youth Aviators program shows the students the dynamics of flying as well as reinforces Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum. There were nine students enrolled in the class, each starting off with a lesson in “Ground School” where they learned aerodynamics, aircraft systems, airport operations, Airport Traffic Control Communications, Airspace Perimeters, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations, navigation, and other studies. The second half of their instruction provided hands on flight lessons at the Republic Airport in Farming-dale, Long Island. The founders both developed the initiative and instructed the students, using their vacation time from their everyday jobs to run the program.
Camper Alfredo Covarrubias still remembers the first time he went into an airplane. He was seven years old, traveling to Mexico, and recalls looking out at the sky in pure wonder. His mother encouraged his curiosity, requesting a group photo in the cockpit with the pilot. Now, at 14 years old, the fer-vent urge to fly has never left him; he is still taken-aback by seeing fluffy white clouds from a closer perspective, sitting in the cockpit knowing what each and every button controls, and is overall enamored by the sensation of flying a thousand feet above land.
“People always say that the sky’s the limit, but I’ve been in the sky now and know how much further I can go,” Covarrubias said proudly. “I never thought camp would be like this! I thought we would only be in a classroom, but on the second day we were on an airplane learning to fly!”
With help from grants, donations, and support from local delegates, such as Community Leader Nikki Lucas, Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, and Brooklyn Bo-rough President Eric Adams, United Youth Aviators remains a free program. “When Milton Davis Sr. told me about this program I was completely blown away by it. We have never had something like this in this community that is outside of military training,” Lucas said. She was so astounded by the camp’s initiative that she urged for the founders to run it in East New York, particularly Spring Creek Towers (which is why it was housed in PS 346). “There are not many children, especially in underserved communities, exposed to aviation programs. And it also introduces the children to a wide variety of aviation career choices and teaches them a unique skill set,” Lucas said. The only requirement is that the students must have good grades, be attentive and able to comprehend the material. The United Youth Aviators is unlike any other camp because students must apply and be accepted into the program. They must meet the Young Air-men’s Association Scholarship requirements, which are: Be between the age of 12-16 years old, write a 500 word essay on “Why I want to learn how to fly a plane,” submit their report card, a character letter from a guidance counselor, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, birth certificate or passport, and pass an in-person interview with the United Youth Aviators administration.
Once the program culminated, the students were able to confidently discuss airspace classifications and look at flight map to charter a flight course. “Just to watch the kids talk to Air Traffic Control and the way they can communicate now is just amazing. Seeing them go through a pilot check list, and knowing exactly what to do is great. They know how to check the fuel, the oil, and the tires; it’s truly is amazing to watch them progress,” Titus said.
The creators of this program hope to extend it into a year-round learn-ing process so that the students are able to fly for at least four hours a month, if not more.
If you want to learn more about the United Youth Aviators, contact them at 1-800-845-5508 or email them at Uyasummercamp .applica firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Amanda Moses