Lightning Aviation gives Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge students a new perspective

By Jessica Vaughn / jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/9/18

FOLEY – Lightning Aviation, a local flight school located at the Foley Municipal Airport, joined forces with the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge, based out of Mobile, to give students from …

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Lightning Aviation gives Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge students a new perspective

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FOLEY – Lightning Aviation, a local flight school located at the Foley Municipal Airport, joined forces with the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge, based out of Mobile, to give students from Palmer Pillans Middle School the ride of their lives.

“The commitment of everyone involved in making the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge a meaningful experience for the students is simply phenomenal,” said United Way Vice President of Community Impact Laurie Childers. “This program represents an ongoing collaboration between the Airbus Foundation, Airbus Americas Engineering in Mobile, the United Way of Southwest Alabama, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, the Mobile Area Education Foundation, Palmer Pillans Middle School, and the Mobile County Public School System, and we’re thrilled to be adding Lightning Aviation to our partnership this year.”

The program gives students the chance to meet and interact with Airbus employees who participate as mentors to the children. These mentors accompany the students on many learning opportunities and outings, inspiring in them a love of learning and helping them to adapt to a technology-driven workforce.

One of the focuses of the project is aviation, and on Wed. March 7, 16 students who participate in the Flying Challenge Program, along with mentors, United Way officials, and parents, came into Baldwin County to take a flight with the pilots at Lightning Aviation.

“We were very happy to be able to partner with the United Way and Airbus,” said Flight School Co-Owner Bradley Littleton. “Our business exists to expose people to the joy of flight and it was extremely gratifying to us to be able to expose these kids to aviation. We hope we were able to spark in at least one of them the same passion for flight we have.”

Lightning Aviation, which was founded in 2010 by retired Army helicopter pilot Roger Watkins, has trained hundreds of Navy and Marine pilots and Naval Flights Officers for the Navy’s Introduction to Flight Screening program since opening.

“We strive to maintain a cadre of the most knowledgeable instructors available, flying the safest, most well-maintained aircraft anywhere in the Gulf Coast,” said Littleton.

The flight school also provides training to civilians seeking their private, instrument, commercial, and multi-engine certificates and ratings. One day, they may even see a returning student who took their first flight thanks to Lightening Aviation and the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge.

“For many of the students in the program, this flight experience will be their first time to fly in an airplane,” said Childers. “It’s an event they avidly look forward to, and one that will be remembered for a long time to come.”

The Flying Challenge covers many areas that are important to the students’ growth, and with the current group of children the mentors have already covered goal setting, persistence, and communication. The students have also learned about computer-aided design and basic computer coding. So far this year, the students have been to a special event at Camp Whispering Pines, toured the Mobile Regional Airport, and now have taken actual flight in Foley thanks to Lightning Aviation.

“The Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge focuses on engaging students in learning, increasing their exposure to STEM subjects, and introducing them to different career opportunities available in aviation and other STEM-related fields,” said Childers. “We want to help students discover that STEM is fun and interesting, while at the same time giving them the opportunity to be mentored by caring adults who can encourage them and answer their questions about going to college, finding a career path, and making the most of their future.”

To learn more about Lightning Aviation, you can visit their website at www.LightningAviationFoley.com, or give them a call at 251-943-5214.

To learn more about the Flying Challenge, you can visit www.Airbus.com (Airbus), www.uwswa.org (United Way of Southwest Alabama), www.exploreum.com (Gulf Coast Exploreum), and www.maef.net (Mobile Area Education).