Vermont Flight Academy takes youth under its wing with new flight program


SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont Flight Academy has launched a program that gives Vermonters ages 12 to 22 a fresh perspective—from thousands of feet in the air.

Flight VT Kicked off first Saturday with 15 flights. Professional pilots teach students the ins and outs of flying and accompanied them on their trips.

Flight VT’s first student was sixth-grader Hannah Knowles. “I’ve actually been terrified of heights since about the fourth grade but I absolutely love flying,” she said.

At 11-years-old, she is facing her fears head-on. Earlier this year, she took a trip she’ll never forget. “Being in the air is so much fun. Especially in the pilot seat, you get to actually experience what someone whose like flying a plane to New York or something,” Hannah said.

Program director Tyler Brown partners with youth community centers to make an activity like flying more accessible. Flight VT selects participants from community and family groups throughout the area, like Spectrum Youth & Family Services, Sara Holbrook Community Center, King Street Youth Center, Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, and Boys & Girls Club of Vergennes.

“We want to introduce Vermont youth to start thinking about possibilities and things that they think might be impossible are, in fact, possible,” said Brown.

Brown also says the program isn’t designed to turn students into professional pilots. But, instead, expand their horizons. “We try to explore different career paths. There’s so many different opportunities in aviation.”

Hannah is one of 25 flight students from the Sara Holbrook Community Center. Associate Director Melissa Pennington help serves nearly 500 kids a year, from toddlers to 18. She says she’s seen tremendous growth in Hannah from this experience.

“This is why we do what we do to give kids experiences like this that inspire their goals, their dreams,” said Pennington. “As Hannah says, she has big dreams now for her future and what she wants to do when she’s older.”

Despite her fear of heights, Hannah says flying is something she aspires to do professionally.

“Something I’ve learned about people is that people do stuff because it’s scary. And because the scariness makes it fun. When I get older, I want to be a rescue pilot and help people,” Hannah said.

Flight VT plans to host more events this summer on July 10 and August 7, plus a few more throughout the year. The program has taken out 15 trips so far and is aiming for 100. For more information, visit their website.

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