Prep aviation program helps provide path to career options

Creating education pathways to in-demand careers is an important and beneficial step toward bolstering the workforce. Such efforts have been seen in Columbus at its institutions of higher learning, particularly in the advanced manufacturing industry to produce more skilled workers.

A new program is helping a local pathway to aviation careers spread its wings.

Aviation Nation launched this fall to teach local high school students the skills needed for jobs in the aviation industry, such as pilots. The 18 students in the after-school, extracurricular program are doing so by learning how to build an airplane under the guidance of adult mentors with aviation backgrounds. They meet for two hours Monday and Wednesday afternoons at Columbus North High School, and are starting by assembling the tail portion of an RV-12 — a two-seat, all-metal aircraft.

The build-an-airplane project will take about two years to complete because it is complex and expensive. The projected cost is $80,000, and about $25,000 has been raised so far. Two upcoming senior projects by Columbus North students are intended to help with the finances.

Aviation Nation is the high school portion of the Educational Pathways Initiative in Aviation, which the Columbus Municipal Airport started in December. The pathway starts with children in prekindergarten who receive coloring books showcasing aviation jobs, and continues through college. Ivy Tech Community College Columbus offers an aviation certificate.

Kudos to volunteers such as Bob Kelley, who created the program, and airport director Brian Payne for seizing an opportunity to enhance opportunities for local students to have a clearer path to aviation careers.

The new program for high school students is a good use of local resources, such as the airport and knowledgeable mentors, and provides an important hands-on experience that will help students decide whether to pursue a career in aviation.

It also can serve as a pipeline to Ivy Tech’s degree program, to help it grow and serve the aviation industry’s job needs.

Aviation Nation is a program worthy of the Columbus community’s continued support.

How to help

Two fundraisers are planned this fall to help finance the Aviation Nation program in Columbus high schools.

Halloween Plane Pull

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 29, Columbus North senior project of Austin Boas.

Where: Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Blvd.

Costs: $10 per person. All proceeds go to Aviation Nation.

Registration: Contact Melinda Finley at or 812-376-2519. The first 30 teams to register will get a free set of pulling gloves with the logo on them.

Columbus Campus Chili Cook-off

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 17, Columbus North senior project of Cameron Hofelich.

Where: Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.

Costs: $5 per person

Information: Contact Hofelich by email at