Sterling HS students already flying high

February 15, 2012 3:04:07 PM PST
Take to the skies with the Flying Tigers. They're students at Sterling High School.

This year's program has put out the largest number of high school solo pilots ever. It's the only program of its kind in the state, and for these students, it's life changing.

At 17 years old, high schoolers George Smith, James Bunch and Christian Moreno are flying high and living a dream.

They are among 40 other students who are apart of Sterling High School's Aviation Sciences magnet program, which trains future pilots and others in the aviation industry. But those three students, and another two, are -- let's just say -- flying above the rest, as they have now taken to the skies, solo.

"Everything was racing through my head, everything. My parents were crying, my instructor was proud," Bunch said.

"It was just like a dream come true, it was a very exhilarating moment," Smith said.

"I felt like I am capable of doing everything," Moreno said.

Not to worry, because by the time they reach the cockpit of the Grumman Cheetah single-engine plane, they've had hours upon hours of classroom training, intense math and science from instructors at Flying Tigers Flight School.

"A great deal of science involved with aerodynamics and with the systems on the plane," flight instructor Warren Benson said.

The training usually costs thousands.

"Generally to get a private pilot license is going to cost between $6,000 and $8,000," Benson said.

For Sterling students, it is free of charge.

For these students it's about much more than flying solo; it's about an opportunity that has already changed their lives.

"No matter what obstacle that lies ahead of you, between getting from point A to point B in aviation, just stick with it and push hard for it," Smith said.

Many of the students begin their training in the ninth grade. For many of the students, like Smith, by the time they finish the program, they will likely have their private pilot's license.