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home : education : schools December 15, 2017

10/10/2017 1:12:00 PM
Sisters High School is flying high
The 48 students of the SHS Flight Science Class on a field day to the Erickson Aircraft Collection Museum. photo by Jim Anderson
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The 48 students of the SHS Flight Science Class on a field day to the Erickson Aircraft Collection Museum. photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

Last Saturday was a high-flying day for the 48 members of the Sisters High School Flight Science class.

They all got together at Sisters Eagle Air at 9 a.m. for a day to head out for the Erickson Aircraft Collection Museum in Madras.

Getting from Sisters to Madras and back can be achieved several ways: A bus would work; so would car-pooling. The students went another way: plane-pooling.

Several Sisters airplane-owners - members of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) - offered their services and airplanes to haul the students to Madras and back.

Benny Benson transported flight science class teacher Sheryl Yeager and a bunch of students in his twin Baron; Dave Hoffman rolled out his Beech Bonanza and beat up the sky both ways with students; Sam Monte, Outlaw Aviation Flight Instructor, and Julie Benson of Sisters Eagle Air also hauled kids in the high school's Cessna 172, as did Dave Hoffman in his Beech Bonanza.

One EAA aircraft was there to participate, a Flight Design Light Sport, piloted by Jim Hamilton; while Brian Lansburgh, a taildragger flight instructor, drove Julie Benson's tricycle-geared Cessna 182 with three students; and last but not least was John Dunlap in his classic Cessna 180.

Some of the aircraft owners gave up the left seat of their aircraft - where the pilot in command sits - so one of the students would have the opportunity to be at the controls during the flight. The pilots, as members of EEA, are qualified pilots in the EAA Young Eagles program. For a few of the future pilots this was their first time to feel what it is like to actually fly the aircraft they were riding in.

On the first flight from Sisters to Madras, one of the pilots helping out, FAA certified flight instructor Brian Lansburgh invited student Ty Beatty to take the controls of Julie Benson's Cessna Skymaster once the aircraft was out of the Sisters traffic pattern - Beatty's first time to be at the controls of any aircraft - with flight instructor Lansburgh in the right seat coaching.

As they were lined up for the Madras runway for landing, Lansburgh told Beatty to keep his hands on the control wheel and feel the way things work on landing.

"All you gotta do is keep it lined up on the runway and let it down slowly once the power is off," Lansburgh said.

Five years ago, Benny and Julie Benson's daughter Cammi took a Young Eagles flight at Madras Airport. Later, she got the online ground school access sponsored through EAA's Sporty's Flight Shop. While Julie was looking over her shoulder, it occurred to her that this program could be used as a curriculum for a class at Sisters High School, at no cost to the school.

Benson didn't know how to start a class at the high school, but met with fellow pilot and high school teacher Jon Renner. He liked the idea, and added the class to the SHS schedule with him as the teacher. There were seven students who signed up for the first flight science class. Renner taught the class for two years before he retired.

To put the flight time into the SHS Flight Science class, the Bensons purchased a Cessna 172 airplane that could be used for training, and that was really the start of Outlaw Aviation. Brian Lansburgh, CFI, began teaching SHS students in the Outlaw 172, and stepped in to teach the class at SHS for a year when Renner retired.

The students' flight museum experience was all that anyone could expect, and more. Every aircraft in the museum is airworthy and can be rolled out the hanger door, started up and with a qualified pilot at the controls, go off into the wild blue yonder. This was impressive to the students who read the information boards beside the nine-ton Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II fame.

One big hit was the students' discovery of a World War II U.S. Army Air Force fire truck named "Outlaw." Everyone climbed aboard, with aviation science teacher Yeager in the cab and Monte posing by the front fender. And of course, the lusty artwork on the noses of several World War II aircraft caught the attention of many of the students.

It was a full day of flying and "hanger talk" for the SHS Outlaw Aviation class, with discussions of the roles of the aircraft in the Erickson Aircraft Museum had in the long saga of the history of aviation in the USA and the exciting and heart-breaking times of World War II.

As plane-pool pilot John Dunlop pulled up on the ramp, one of the students who left his hefty Cessna 180 was Ryan Ilmberger, a young man who already has over 10 hours of flight time - thanks to his dad who is certified in just everything that can fly, from fixed wing to rotary wing.

Ryan's mom, Lonnie, was waiting for him, and as she watched him walk up to her she shared this thought:

"Aviation classes in the high school? Wow! That was our reaction when we were looking for a high school for our son, Ryan. We're from the San Francisco Bay Area and the high schools there were not the right place for our son.

"We visited the school in May and turned in the papers for Sisters High School and also Sisters Middle School for our daughter, Alli, in June. We felt very welcomed here and the school staff, community and environment were awesome. Now that our son has had his first flight with the EAA here in Sisters he is well on his way. Big smiles from ear to ear!"

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