GMHS Junior Attends National Flight Academy

Posted on September 4, 2014, in Academics, Lancer Life

Mason Fitzsimmons (first row, far right) attend the National Flight Academy this summer.

Most high school students don’t come close to flying an aircraft carrier. Mason Fitzsimmons isn’t most high school students.

The junior at General McLane High School experienced aspects of Naval Aviation this summer through the landlocked, virtual aircraft carrier, Ambition (CVT-11), at Pensacola’s National Flight Academy.

This five-day summer program offers students in grades 7 through 12 the opportunity to practice everything from charting the routes of aircraft on humanitarian missions to flying jets for search-and-rescue efforts.

“It was a great experience. The Academy keeps you engaged and challenged and the same time,” says Fitzsimmons, who is a member of General McLane’s Academy of Medical Arts and Engineering. “The whole experience was pretty interesting because you get to see other aspects of flying – at no point do you fly anything combat-related, it’s all surveillance and transport.”

Students start at 6:30 a.m. and continue doing operations until 9 p.m. inside of Ambition, a 102,000 sq. ft. four-story, state-of-the-art structure located on the Naval Air Station (NAS), adjacent to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the largest naval aviation museum in the world.

Each deck of the CVT-11 is scenically and theatrically designed to simulate a modern aircraft carrier. The first deck houses the galley, mess deck, administrative spaces and the aircraft hangar bays. The second deck is dedicated to academic spaces including the operations and intelligence centers.  The third and fourth decks house berthing (crew quarters), lounges and activity rooms.

The National Flight Academy’s curriculum is aimed at advancing students’ knowledge of the high profile STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Instructors are from the University of West Florida, which offers three college credit hours in STEM to 11th and 12th graders who participate in the program.

Fitzsimmons earned a scholarship that covered the tuition of the camp, which is normally $1250.

Fitzsimmons aspires to one day be an aerospace engineer and work at Lockheed Martin, and he said his experience at the National Flight Academy will help him reach those goals.

“I’ve always loved planes and fluid dynamics and, more specifically, now I am looking at Aerospace engineering focusing on proposal engineering,” he says. “This camp gave me an opportunity to perform missions specifically in those areas.”

General McLane’s Academy of Medical Arts and Engineering was created to prepare students for careers in medicine and engineering. Through partnerships with local businesses, hospitals and universities, the curricula will be enriched with hands-on activities designed to provide students with quality, live-learning experiences. The Academy of Medical Arts and Engineering initiated a planning phase in 2011-2012 as a result of a district strategic planning goal to enhance STEM education.