New Youth Aviation Education Program Launches in Aspen

The Aspen Flight Academy in Aspen, Colorado, is launching a youth aviation education program this fall that is the first of its kind in the nation. The “Every Student Flies” program will provide a free flight lesson to every student at the Aspen Public High School, with enrollment this fall being 556 students.

Four Roaring Fork Valley organizations joined together to build this unique program to introduce Aspen High School students to the many careers available in the aviation industry. The Aspen Flight Academy, Aspen Education Foundation, Aspen School District and The BettyFlies Foundation all joined forces to develop and fund this initiative.

Each student will be offered a free flight lesson with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in a Diamond DA40 aircraft. After the flight, students will be given a private tour of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport’s Air Traffic Control tower, along with tours of local aviation companies on the airfield. An educational package will be offered to each student containing a wealth of information on higher education and career opportunities in all fields of aviation including piloting, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, airport management, and more. In addition, free flights are being offered to the high school’s teachers and administrative staff, to enable them to share with their students the experience of flying in a small aircraft.

The Every Student Flies program was created by Captain Michael Pearce, a Boeing 777 international pilot for American Airlines and President of the Aspen Flight Academy’s Board of Directors. “We are excited to launch this one-of-a-kind program to offer every Aspen High School student the chance to experience flight and learn about careers in aviation,” said Pearce. “Our hope is that other public high schools across the country will be excited about our program and look into doing the same in their communities.”

In order for the Academy to have the highest quality experience for the students, Pearce worked with Diamond Aircraft CEO Scott McFadzean to craft a long-term purchase agreement. Two DA40-NG model aircraft will be provided to the Aspen Flight Academy every year for 10 years to support this program, ensuring the high school students are flying new aircraft and one of the industry’s safest trainers with the newest technology onboard.

This ten-year agreement is valued at over $11 million. “Encouraging young talent in aviation is a cause we truly believe in at Diamond Aircraft,” said McFadzean. “Every Student Flies is a powerful initiative which will positively impact many young lives and our industry for years to come.”

The program will be managed by Kate Short, the Director of Aviation for the Aspen School District. Short is a K-12 educator and pilot holding ratings from CFI to multi-engine instrument. “This program is unique in that we are able to offer these experiences to public high school students at no cost to their families,” said Short.

Suzanne Pfister believes the Every Student Flies program could make a real difference in the lives of young people. Pfister is President of The BettyFlies Foundation, a partner of this new program. Her non-profit organization provides aviation opportunities for youth while sustaining the legacy of her mother, Betty Haas Pfister, a WWII Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) and Aspen’s own aviation hero. “Betty was a trailblazer in the true sense of the word,” said Pfister. “She was a flight enthusiast who thought ‘outside the box’ in all her endeavors.”