Alief ISD Aviation Program Soaring
Students participating in the Alief ISD Aerospace Engineering Program are working on a project to build an RV-12is airplane and will be able to earn their Sport Pilot License Certificate through a partnership with West Houston Airport.
Walking into Steward Bailey’s Aerospace Engineering classroom at Elsik High School is truly a unique experience. The first thing you notice is how hard the students, who attend different Alief ISD high schools, are working and how well they function as a team, equally sharing responsibilities. Then you realize that the overwhelming majority of the students in this class are female.
On this day, the students were constructing, not designing on a computer, actually building an airplane wing for the RV-12iS airplane that the students will build and fly. The RV-12 is a two-seat, all metal, side-by-side airplane with removable wings for easy transport. Students participating in this project will be able to earn their Sport Pilot License Certificate through a partnership with West Houston Airport.
“I tell the students at the very beginning that there are more airports in Texas than colleges,” Bailey said. “There are some very good chances to earn a living in the aviation industry, and they are not all pilots “
Thanks to extremely generous donations from the Olson family, Alief ISD is not footing the entire cost of the airplane. Community members Franklin and Gail Olson have graciously donated a total of $40,000 to the Aerospace Engineering program. Mr. Olson is a former member of the Superintendent’s Pastoral Network and was involved with the Metropolitan Organization, dedicated to helping transform Houston and the surrounding areas.
This program is also made possible with adult mentors. Mentors Tom Boyett, Greg Beckner and Richard Brochard volunteer their time to help the students build the plane.
“I am so proud to be part of this class, this group building this airplane,” said Nubia Romero, a senior at Elsik High School. “For years, aviation has been considered to be a male-dominated field. We are excited to show others that yes girls build and fly airplanes; we all work extremely hard at this.”
Romero has many options following her graduation from high school. She has been accepted into the American Airlines Training Program in Dallas-Fort Worth, but is also considering Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The majority of students in this class had Mr. Bailey as their teacher at Holub Middle School and then, naturally followed him to Elsik High School.
“I am excited that so many young women are interested in the aviation program here. I did not purposely set out to recruit more young women than young men, but I am honored that so many chose this class to develop their skills,” Bailey said. “A few of the students in here, male and female, have already obtained their drone pilot’s license and a few are well on their way in obtaining their pilot’s license.”
The Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) license allows these students to earn money through drone piloting.
Gabriela Hernandez’s story is a little different from most in the Aerospace Engineering class. She was born in Honduras and came to the United States in 2013 with her family. She immersed herself in learning the English language and quickly adapted to the American education system.
A junior at Elsik High School, she is pursuing her mechanic’s license with the goal of attending Embry Riddle. “I am so thankful for this opportunity. I have learned so much in this class and I hope to be able to continue in this field after high school,” Hernandez said.
Bobby Nguyen is currently ranked second in the 2022 graduating class at Taylor High School. He has completed his certification as a drone pilot and would love to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado or another preparatory school in his quest to become a pilot.
Nguyen is one of the few in the class who did not attend Holub Middle School and take Mr. Bailey’s classes there.
The learning never ends for the class or the instructor, as Bailey just recently passed his pilot exam as did Joel Gomez, a junior at Elsik High School. Gomez paid for his lessons by earning money after school on his own time.
“This is a great group. Even though I went to a different middle school, and currently attend a different high school, we all get along so well,” Nguyen said. “We all work side-by-side on every phase of this project. It is a true team effort the whole way.”
Cindy Le is a senior at Elsik High School and is pursuing her Aviation Maintenance Professional (AMP) Certification. She has known Mr. Bailey since her days at Holub Middle School. She may also pursue her post-high school education at Embry Riddle.
“This project is a lot harder than I thought it would be. All the work is hands-on, and the work can be very tedious,” she said. “This is made easier by the closeness of this team. We all depend on each other, and we know we will get the work done.”
Bailey said that the program has surpassed his goals since its inception. “We wanted to create a pipeline when we started this, and we have. With our students now being accepted into American Airlines University and earning scholarships to Embry Riddle, we are laying the groundwork for future students for years to come,” he said.
Alief ISD’s Aerospace Engineering Program is led by Steward Bailey. Through the program, student Joel Gomez recently passed his pilot’s exam.