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Prepared for Takeoff

Burke High senior Thomas Reid was excited to get his driver’s license last year. Now, at 17, he’s earned another license with help from Omaha Public Schools programming.

“I recently earned my private pilot’s license,” said Reid. “It took a lot to prepare, and once my instructor said congratulations, a weight came off my shoulders. Then, I was able to take my dad up for the first time.”

Reid’s passion for planes began in middle school while watching aircraft investigation videos. He knew then that he wanted to pursue flying as a career. Hearing about Burke High’s aviation program sealed his decision.

“One of the biggest benefits of Burke High’s Air & Space Academy is all the dual enrollment classes,” said Reid. “You can get hands-on experience and see if it's something you want to do.”

Burke High’s Air & Space Academy allows students to gain real-world experience in flight, aircraft mechanics, aerospace engineering and airport management. They can also earn dual credit through the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Burke High has a flight simulator that offers a realistic experience before students take to the skies. Aviation instructor Patrick Ryan says the hours logged by students in the simulator can go towards the hours needed to obtain a pilot’s license.

“It’s great because ou kids get to enjoy where education comes to life,” said Ryan. “Seeing the kids have an experience they wouldn’t otherwise have is really rewarding.”

Air & Space Academy students begin as sophomores before advancing to specific pathway courses. Jenna Crippen is in her first year of the program. She plans to join the U.S. Air Force after high school. She says the program teaches valuable skills she’d otherwise not learn until after graduation.

“I think it’s important because this opens up more pathways. You learn a lot of different skills,” said Crippen. “I chose to come to Burke because of the aviation program.”

Burke High’s aviation program helped Reid lay the foundation for completing his pilot’s license through Oracle Aviation. What started as a hobby is now his career path.

“I want to be a major airline pilot,” he said. “It’s peaceful but can be challenging at the same time when you’re learning something new.”

Burke High’s Air & Space Academy is one example of the opportunities offered at all nine comprehensive high schools in our district. Learn more about Omaha Public Schools College & Career Academies and Pathways on our website.