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Northwest elementary 4th-graders get lesson in flying

Northwest Elementary students were given a tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

ZELIENOPLE — Pilot Alec Bayer may be used to navigating the sky, but on Friday, April 19, he was tasked with maneuvering through a totally new type of landscape.

Answering the rapid-fire questions of inquisitive fourth-graders.

“How fast does the plane go?”

“What’s the farthest place you’ve ever been in a plane?”

“What time do you come into work?”

“Have you ever flown Taylor Swift before?”

Alec Beyer, along with fellow Private Jet Center pilots Hannah Moses and Brandon Wood, hosted Northwest Elementary fourth-graders at the Zelienople Municipal Airport. The field trip was part of the school’s program “Wonders of Work,” which teaches students about variety in jobs fields such as electrician, photographer, accountant and, of course, pilot.

Beyer, a Northwest Elementary alumnus, said being able to get students familiar with what it takes to be a pilot at a young age can help them on their career path.

“There’s not a lot of people talking about being a pilot and how to get there and where to go to become one,” Beyer said. “That’s why this field trip is important to me, these kids can get a little taste of it now and, maybe its something they can carry with them and end up pursing later on.”

Becoming a pilot was not the only thing the 75 students were shown during the two hour tour. Along with learning about flying, the students were able to see the inner workings of the maintenance department, the administration staff, the sales team and the control center.

“It takes a lot of teamwork to make this place work,” Beyer told the students. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it is also a lot of fun.”

The most anticipated part of the tour was when the children were able to explore the inside of a Citation XLS, a mid-size business jet that can hold up to 10 passengers.

“This is so awesome,” said one student as they entered the aircraft cabin. “It’s so nice in here.”

The Wonders of Work program began during the 2023-24 school year. It allowed teachers to choose five careers to highlight. Students in grades three through five get to learn about a different job from one of the RIASEC categories. RIASEC stands for realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.

“Northwest Elementary plans to continue to utilize the RIASEC tool to help students understand their strengths, interests and values,” said Kara Drone, director of communication for Butler Area School District. “(And) have career exploration days, site visits, parent volunteers and start work on a curriculum overlay that will highlight careers that are currently discussed in each level’s curriculum.”

Northwest Elementary student Jaxson Gibson views the inside of a Citation XLS during the school's tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

And while some students came to learn about a new profession, Jaxson Gibson, 10, who described the field trip as a “dream,” is already sold on becoming a pilot.

“My grandfather was in the Air Force,” Jaxson said. “I want to go to flight school and get into flight training.”

Northwest Elementary students were given a tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary students view a Citation XLS jet during their tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary student Natalie Rozic walks the aisle of a Citation XLS during the school's tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary students Blaz Collins and Sadie Jockel get their photo taken from the inside a Citation XLS during their tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary students Elsie Gerhart, Natalie Rozic, Kinsley McCaslin and Emma Graham get their photo taken from the inside of a Citation XLS during the school's tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary students view the wings of a Citation XLS jet during their tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Northwest Elementary students learn about a Citation XLS jet during their tour of the Zelienople Municipal Airport on Friday, April 19. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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