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Aiming for the skies at Woonsocket High School

WOONSOCKET-- In its second year, the Woonsocket High School aviation program continues to attract budding pilots and aviation technicians. Darin Schmiedt, industrial arts teacher, has always been interested in aviation and wanted to spark the int...

Brandon Goergen, pilot and airplane mechanic at Wilbur Ellis Air in Huron, observes students of the aviation class at Woonsocket High School during class last week. (Sheila Slater / Republic )
Brandon Goergen, pilot and airplane mechanic at Wilbur Ellis Air in Huron, observes students of the aviation class at Woonsocket High School during class last week. (Sheila Slater / Republic )

WOONSOCKET- In its second year, the Woonsocket High School aviation program continues to attract budding pilots and aviation technicians.

Darin Schmiedt, industrial arts teacher, has always been interested in aviation and wanted to spark the interest of his students in new technology and the aviation industry.

"I went to a meeting in Pierre a few years back with Dale Taylor, the industrial tech teacher in Kimball," Schmiedt said. "He put on a little presentation about his aviation program and I decided to bring it to Woonsocket."

Schmiedt reached out to his long-time friend Brandon Goergen, a pilot and aircraft mechanic with 13 years of industry experience, who was eager for take off.

Goergen, who works for Wilbur Ellis Air in Huron, operates a Cessna 172 and Citabria, both single-engine machines commonly used in the farming industry by duster pilots. He assists Schmiedt on a volunteer basis every Friday afternoon teaching students about the movement of the three primary flight control surfaces-ailerons, elevator or stabilator, or rudder-and how changes affect the airflow and pressure distribution over and around the airfoil.

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The school recently purchased a $1,000 software program called X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator, a state-of-the-art system offering tutorials, realistic 3D screens and a flight school section which incorporates the flight training technology and helicopter basics.

"Flying a real airplane can get pretty expensive," Goergen said. "With the flight simulator, the kids can practice flying and see if that is something they would like to do later as a profession."

Different real-life situations are programmed into the flight simulator covering various topics including take-off and landing scenarios under calm or more severe weather conditions.

"The simulator is a little more sensitive than the real airplane," Goergen said. "If you can fly on the simulator without any problems, you can fly the real deal."

During a simulated flight, students can also crash as easily as they could in the real world, just without the hard landing.

"By the end of the year, we have the kids shooting for different approaches where the simulator will give them a tutorial on how to approach these particular situations," Goergen said. "At the end, they are flying on their own while I watch them take over. It's pretty entertaining and fun to teach."

Some of the students already show interest in becoming professional pilots or combining their passion for aviation with their initial career goals. Student Wesley Linke, 17, was raised on a farm outside of Woonsocket and competed in the national Future Farmers of America program (FFA).

"First I wanted to go into agronomy coming from a farm," student Wesley Linke said. "But through the aviation program I have learned that I could fly and spread fertilizers as a duster pilot and possibly combine both areas."

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Aviation students at Woonsocket High School Wesley Linke, 17, left, and Malachi Bruce, 17, practice their pilot skills utilizing a realistic flight simulation software program during class last week. (Sheila Slater / Republic )
Aviation students at Woonsocket High School Wesley Linke, 17, left, and Malachi Bruce, 17, practice their pilot skills utilizing a realistic flight simulation software program during class last week. (Sheila Slater / Republic )

Related Topics: AVIATION
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