Students prepare for takeoff at 7:45 a.m. in Douglas Hakala’s Introduction to Aviation class at North Creek High School.
The new Career and Technical Education (CTE) course launched this fall in the Northshore School District. While it’s held at North Creek, any student in the district is invited to take the class.
Austin Mitchell, a junior, said he sprang at the opportunity to take the class when he first heard it was being offered. He said he comes from a long family history of aviation, to which he hopes to become another addition.
“My great-great uncle served in World War II and flew B-17 bombers,” Mitchell said. “My grandfather worked for Lockheed Martin, and my father currently works for Boeing. Through my life, I’ve had a history of aviation. Once I saw this class was available, I thought it would be the best thing to take it.”
Mitchell and his 29 other classmates are learning to fly using a $14,000 Redbird flight simulator.
The class immerses students into aviation through a variety of topics, such as aviation history to jet engines mechanics and aircraft aerodynamics basics. The class is designed to assist students explore other career choices after high school.
Hakala has been teaching in the Northshore School District for the last six years. He’s taught marketing, finance and robotics. He has two masters degrees — one in business, the other in engineering, specifically in aviation. He worked on the 767/757 project staff for Boeing.
When seeking for someone to teach the class, Director of CTE Damen Schuman said he was searching for someone to teach the class “in all the wrong places.”
“It was pure happenstance that we had the perfect person to teach this class right under our noses,” Schuman said.
Hakala said he enjoys teaching the aviation class at North Creek because he loves seeing students’ enthusiasm ignite.
“It’s so wonderful to see these kids, who a lot of them don’t really know what they want to do after high school, become interested in learning — especially something in the STEM field,” he said. “I have so many kids come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t know physics and math could be so interesting!’ It makes a difference when they can see it going into something that’s real and practical.”
Braxton Larson, a senior, said the class is really practical for students who are seeking alternative career routes to going to a four-year college.
“It’s really helpful if you want to pursue a practical STEM-related career,” he said. “I’m interested in going into the Air Force Academy and I’m really glad I’m taking this class.”
Several students in the class said they’re contemplating a career in aviation, whether it’s being a pilot, an air traffic controller or an engineer.
The students who complete this course will have the skills to pass the FAA’s written pilot’s exam.
Northshore School District is currently the only district that has this kind of program at the high school level.