Image above: In a support building near the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to students and their flight instructors from Florida Tech in Melbourne, Fla. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett ›View larger image
Image above: Inside the RLV Hangar near the Shuttle Landing Facility, the FIT students and their flight instructors view an F104 Starfighter aircraft and listen to Starfighter Director Rick Svetkoff. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett ›View larger image
Image above: Image credit: Midfield at the Shuttle Landing Facility, the students and their flight instructors tour the air traffic control tower. NASA/Kim Shiflett ›View larger imageSeveral young students and their flight instructors from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in Melbourne flew their lightweight aircraft north and touched down at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), on July 20. It just happened also to be the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Though not as historic an event as a moon landing, to the seven middle- and high-school students who are participating in FIT Aviation’s Av/Aero summer camp experience, their touchdown in Piper Warrior and Cessna 172S aircraft at the SLF was definitely worth the ride. NASA Aviation Safety Officer Joe Torsani met the group and accompanied them on their tour of several facilities. They gathered in a support building near the SLF to hear from Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana who shared stories of his interest in becoming a test pilot and eventually becoming a NASA astronaut. "Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing,"Cabana said. "And continue to set those goals. Don’t limit yourself. You’re capable of doing anything that you set your mind to if you apply yourself." FIT Aeronautics Outreach Coordinator Juliet Sisk said the field trip to Kennedy was one of the highlights of the Av/Aero Experience. "From landing to takeoff, our tour was engaging and informative,"Sisk said. "Everyone welcomed us warmly." Four students from Brevard County, two students from Washington State and one from Texas, along with seven flight instructors, toured the SLF midfield Air Traffic Control Tower and viewed the runway plaques marking wheels stop for each of the three space shuttles’ final landings. They viewed F104 Starfighters and two NASA Huey helicopters in the RLV Hangar and met Starfighters Director Rick Svetkoff, and toured the Vehicle Assembly Building where space shuttle Atlantis temporarily is stored. Tenth-grade student Nicholas would like to attend the Naval Academy and acquired his interest in aviation from his father, who was a pilot, and his great grandfather, who was an air force fighter pilot who flew F4 Phantoms. Eighth-grader Sean enjoyed the tour of the F104 Starfighters. "It was very cool seeing the jets,"Sean said. "I was afraid of flying at first, but now I would like to go into engineering and fly an airplane or helicopter in the future." Cody, an eleventh-grader, said he would like to learn to fly an F104 Starfighter and wants to attend the Naval Academy. FIT Aviation Director Glenn Vera accompanied the group of students and said: "NASA and the entire KSC team have long set as one of their goals to inspire the next generation of aerospace explorers. With these young students, they definitely succeeded in accomplishing that goal today." Tennesse Garvey is FIT Aviation’s retail program supervisor. He and the other flight instructors were just as excited as the students to be at Kennedy. "The Av/Aero Experience is the first camp of its kind to be offered by FIT,"Garvey said. "It is such a unique opportunity to experience the tour of Kennedy Space Center and hear from Center Director Cabana." Assistant Chief Flight Instructor Shannon Ferry said the Av/Aero and other FIT summer aviation camps were designed to expose young adults to the aviation industry which includes more than just flying. "We are so grateful to NASA for this experience. It was ‘out of this world,' "Ferry said. Sisk said through FIT’s basic Summer Flight Camp, Advanced Aviation Academy and now, their hybrid aviation aerospace camp, or Av/Aero Experience, she has the privilege of watching the young people mature into knowledgeable, confident student pilots. "It was an honor getting to host these future aviators—who knows, maybe future astronauts,"Torsani said. "Their enthusiasm, curiosity and initiative are just what we need in the next generation of aerospace pioneers."