New learning: The Middletown airport is a classroom for these Butler Tech students

Now in its second year, the Butler Tech Aviation Exploration program - at the Middletown Regional Airport - is growing and adding more planes to be used for hands-on studies. The program also trains students in drone piloting, a booming industry. (Photo By Nicholas Graham\Journal-News)
Now in its second year, the Butler Tech Aviation Exploration program - at the Middletown Regional Airport - is growing and adding more planes to be used for hands-on studies. The program also trains students in drone piloting, a booming industry. (Photo By Nicholas Graham\Journal-News)

Aviation’s past is helping high school students develop a career interest for their futures.

Butler Tech’s second-year Aviation Exploration program at the Middletown Regional Airport is growing thanks to the addition of an older airplane and soon a visit from a World War II bomber.

The program is one of the career school’s newest, and it exposes high school juniors and seniors to the possibilities of careers in the aviation industry or the study of aeronautical engineering in college.

ExploreVideo & story: Butler Tech opens latest new campus at Middletown airport

In 2019, Butler Tech opened classroom spaces in one of the airport’s hangars and now more than three dozen students are learning up close about what it takes to be part of the nationwide aviation industry.

“It’s been really fun,” said Lillian Champagne, a junior from Monroe. “We get to do lots of hands-on learning and we’re not just sitting in a classroom.”

The aviation program has grown to now include two flight simulators, two donated planes and instruction in aviation maintenance, aeronautical engineering and the fundamentals of aircraft piloting, said Rich Packer, Butler Tech aviation instructor.

“It’s really an exploration program for anything aviation related,” said Packer, adding it also prepares students for further job training or advanced study in college.

The teens' learning was to include the touring of a WWII bomber on Friday but its flight to the Middletown airport was delayed until next week. Students will see the inside and out of a North American B-25 Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber that became standard equipment for the Allied air forces in World War II.

A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Butler Tech, said the program is the result of a partnership with the Middletown Regional Airport and Cincinnati State and also includes drone piloting training.

“One of the unique benefits of the Aviation Exploration program is the ability for the students to earn their FAA Drone License, which is incredibly relevant in relation to the news last week that Amazon received federal approval to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones for customer deliveries,” said Huff.

"In the second year of the program, this is the first year that we have a full junior and senior cohort of students. Notably, the junior class is composed of 35 percent females.

“During the last two decades, the number of women involved in the aviation industry has steadily increased and women can be found in nearly every aviation occupation today. However, the numbers are small by comparison. Women pilots, for example, represent only six percent of the total pilot population.”