Raven ‘spreads her WINGS’
Every child dreams of what they want to be when they grow up, and Raven Lockhart is no exception. With one year left in high school, Raven’s choice is either to become a commercial pilot or a physical therapist. And over the summer she was able to take the first step toward the realization of one of those goals, after participating in a six-day program at the National Flight Academy (NFA) in Pensacola, Florida.
Raven, 16, who attends St. Anne’s School, participated in one of the most exciting and immersive learning adventures aboard “Ambition”, the world’s largest simulated aircraft carrier, and an experience for seventh through 12th grade students.
The NFA is an interactive, immersive learning adventure that focuses on inspiring youth to take a greater interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. Located on Naval Air Station Pensacola, the National Flight Academy is a program of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation Inc., and is authorized, but not endorsed or funded, by the United States Navy and United States Government.
Raven and fellow participants lived for six days in a multi-story 102,000 square-foot facility and experienced theme-park style thrills surrounded by advanced technology, flight simulators, and virtual reality games that ignite imagination and encourage learning.
The students are called “Ambition Experimental Pilots” (AXPs) and during their time in the program they plan missions with ultramodern and advanced technology as well as learn to fly in 30-networked aircrafts, eat on mess decks, sleep in staterooms and receive mission briefings in six fully electronic ready rooms.
She described the experience as “amazing.”
“At the National Flight Academy, I learned how to persevere and to work with others. At the program you have to do a lot of teamwork, so if one of your teammates isn’t understanding something then you try to help them out,” said Raven. “We went on missions — some missions we had to find missing cargo, or rescue people who were affected in a hurricane, so we had to take off, find the cargo and communicate with air traffic control so we could know when it was safe to take off and safe to land. We went and got directions to follow and picked up the cargo and carried it back to the aircraft. It was a STEM program, but it was applied to the aviation world, so what I did was I spent a lot of time doing missions. We completed missions in the flight simulators, or we would do it in the joint intelligence room which is where we did a lot of radar work with air traffic control.”
The leadership team at Ambition delivered inspired plays in the six-day immersive programs. It all starts with the story — a heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled mission with squadrons competing to successfully finish a task. Whether a race or rescue, STEM skills are used in tandem with the equally important 21st Century learning skills including critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication to advance the team.
NFA General Duane Thiessen, on the NFA’s site described the NFA as a deep immersion experience that focuses on STEM in which children come from all 50 states and many foreign countries. He said it was an honor to bring them in and share the high impact experience with them.
“When the children come here they’re in a foreign setting — it’s a building, but it is an environment that looks, sounds, feels, and smells like being a ship. These children have a rewarding experience that they’ll never forget. Some of them, it will change their life, because they’ll realize just how capable they are compared to where they thought they were; others, it will reinforce where they already want to go, and both of those are tremendous experiences,” said Thiessen.
Raven, a member of Junior Achievement (JA) Bahamas was able to participate in the NFA experience courtesy of Delta’s Community Affairs and Fight Operations departments. Students from Delta’s community partners of which JA is one, were eligible to apply by submitting an essay; selected students received a scholarship to attend.
According to Thiessen, the NFA has partnered with Delta now for four years. He stated that Delta has helped them put hundreds of children through the experience and that they look forward to working with and partnering with Delta in the operation for years to come.
Prior to the camp, Raven had not had prior flight simulation experience. During her flight missions, she admits to crashing at least twice per day when she had three mission days. She said the more missions she flew the more difficult it got.
“Flight simulators can be very difficult, and we had an actual cockpit, so when I was actually successful at landing the plane, that was exciting for me, because I actually started to catch on because it was really difficult at first. But I persevered and made it through.”
Her days at NFA began at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 9:45 p.m. each night, with breaks for meals only. She said it was an intense six days.
“I want to be a commercial pilot,” said the daughter of Sherlock and Stephanie Lockhart. “My father is an air traffic controller, so I basically grew up going to the airport and watching the planes land and takeoff, and I’ve always had an interest in it, but not until last September I really started to do my research and I fell in love with it.”
Raven plans to apply for any and all scholarships that she is eligible for to flight school or to college. She says it will depend on her financial situation.
“I plan to apply for a lot of scholarships either to flight school or to college. I know I want to attend college, so that’s my number one priority. And if the funds are available, I’ll attend flight school while in college.” She wants to study towards a degree in physical therapy.
The 3.5 grade point average honor roll student said the NFA experience during which she had to play her role on missions has shown her how to be a leader, and how to discuss issues when there are disagreements. It’s something she says she can apply to her everyday life.
“In the program I basically had to respond to the ability of playing my part and playing my role when we were doing missions, so now I know how to work with other people, how to be a leader and how to discuss issues when there’s disagreements,” she said.
From six-day deployments to one-day adventures, the National Flight Academy ignites imagination and encourages learning.
Ambition 2Xperimental Pilots (AXPs) become fundamentally aware of the integration of mathematics and science into their daily lives by measuring, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. In addition, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and other learning skills are valuable assets gained from the experience.