BREVARD COUNTY — On May 29, eight Eau Gallie High School students gathered in the school’s aviation hangar during their lunch period to meet an astronaut, except Astronaut Winston Scott wasn’t just hanging out for a casual visit.
Mr. Scott awarded eight students, made up of a mix of juniors and seniors, with the National Aerospace/Aircraft Assembly (AAA) certification. These students were the first in the nation to pass the AAA exam in its first year given to high school students by Boeing.
The Aviation Fabrication and Assembly program is a college level program that began at Eau Gallie High School four years ago.
“We’re the only high school trained provider [in Brevard County],” said William McInnish, Aviation Technology teacher. “When students get their certificate, that gives them their Bright Futures Scholarship, and on top of that, they get nine credit hours going into the space tech program. If they’re not going straight into college or the military, they’re going straight to work at either Embraer, Piper Aircraft, or another large corporation.”
Mr. McInnish teaches a private pilot ground school course in addition to three levels of Aviation Technology.
According to Mr. McInnish, out of the 20 students in his classes that took the exam, only eight passed.
The past school year contained new curriculum for his Aviation Technology classes, and there were some elements in the exam that Mr. McInnish said he wasn’t aware that needed to be covered.
“It took me to the third try to pass the exam. There were a few questions asked that we hadn’t learned yet,” said Kassandra Reyes, a junior at Eau Gallie High School. “My dad is an aviation mechanic. He encouraged me to join this program, so I did, and I like it.”
“Mr. McInnish is really dedicated to this program,” added Colby Wilson, a junior who also received his AAA certificate. “I’ve always loved airplanes since I was a little kid, and I’ve always wanted to work on them and be around them. This program is a perfect opportunity to do that.”
In the Aviation Fabrication and Assembly program, students get a hands-on opportunity to work on planes and learn crucial skills to become an aircraft technician.
These skills include painting, welding, riveting, working with the plane’s hydraulic systems, wiring and more.
Last year, Mr. Scott was instrumental in donating a Mitsubishi Diamond 1A aircraft from Tampa for the students to assemble.
“One of the most challenging aspects was that someone had cut the wires,” Colby said. “We also had trouble with the landing gear and hydraulics system.”
Students come from all over the county just to participate in this course, said Mr. McInnish. He added that he can take up to 125 students per school year, although most of those seats are occupied by students who elect to take multiple courses under his program.
As a former Vietnam War veteran who joined the United States Coast Guard for 22 years, Mr. McInnish retired from active duty to teach technology for the Alabama educational system. Just as he was retiring from teaching and moved to Florida for his wife’s health, he was asked to work for Eau Gallie High School.
“I was asked if I’d start this program because of my aviation background,” Mr. McInnish said. “I’m a master level school teacher, and an AMP, which means Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
“I’m still working because I love to see the success of the kids,” he continued. “I like seeing kids going on and not just getting a job, but having a future.”
As Mr. McInnish prepares his classes for the next AAA certification exam, he said he hopes to see more students passing, now that he is more familiar with what the exam covers.
For more information, visit www.brevardschools.org/EauGallieHS.