By lex, on January 24th, 2012
When Son Number One got his wings in Pensacola these last months past, I took the opportunity to go down with hizzoner and his sainted ma, for to see the Naval Aviation Museum there. That being one of my cultural touchstones, for ours is a proud history with many fine and honorable heroes who preceded us, to serve as examples.
Eugene Ely it was who first put an airplane down upon a carrier deck, just a little over a hundred years ago. Butch O’Hare shot down three Betty bombers – and damaged two others – who were targeting USS Lexington on the unopposed side, saving the ship and thousands of his shipmates, while earning our first ever Medal of Honor. He was trained by Jimmy Thach, who turned a performance disadvantage into a winning tactic, setting the example for generations of innovators. His soul has gone on to meet its reward, but his spirit is with us still.
Pappy Boyington taught the young kids how to fight in the Solomons, and later paid his rent as a guest of Imperial Japan. Joe Foss got his kills at Guadalcanal, and helped protect the grunts from adding to the butcher’s bill.
Jessie Brown broke the color line to serve a country that didn’t yet deserve him in the Korean War, and paid for it with his life. Thomas Hudner crashed his airplane alongside him, behind enemy lines, trying to save his life. He also earned the MoH. John Koelsch gave his life so that another might live. Clyde Lassen learned his example a decade or so later.
Jim Stockdale earned his ribbon refusing to submit to the North Vietnamese. Mike Estocin understood the concept of being on “government time” over Haiphong. He went missing because of it, his fate known to God alone.
It’s a lot to live up to.
But they all came from somewhere. Ely came from Davenport, Iowa. O’Hare from Saint Louis. Thach from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Pappy from Coeur D’Alene. Foss from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jessie Brown from the hard hate of Hattiesburg, MS. Hudner from Fall River, Mass. Jack Koelsch from London, England. Lassen from Fort Myers, FL. Admiral Stockdale from Abingdon, IL. Estocin from Turtle Creek, PA.
Flyover country, mostly. Not the kinds of places that send kids to Harvard or Yale. Apart from Koelsch. Who came from the old country for reasons of his own, and gave his life for one of his adopted brothers.
Where do we grow the next crop? How do we reach them?
The National Flight Academy is designed to address the serious concerns of declining Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills and standards in our country. The Academy’s mission is to inspire students who subsequently return to their parent schools and seek out the more challenging courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Disciplines will include aerodynamics, propulsion, navigation, communications, flight physiology and meteorology, along with core values, teamwork, and leadership skills development. In addition to the in-residence program, the NFA will offer a web-based Distance Learning Program for both students and teachers.
The National Flight Academy development team currently includes the best and brightest from the entertainment industry as well as leaders in education, simulation and training. Our immersive simulated environment, coupled with the most revolutionary methods in instruction, will foster cooperative learning and inspire young people primarily in grades 7 through 12 to pursue the math and sciences today that open the door to science and engineering degrees and careers of tomorrow. This vision for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders is the guiding purpose of the National Flight Academy.
The NFA is a self-supporting, tuition-based educational program. In order to make the National Flight Academy adventure a reality for as many students as possible, we are committed to a financial aid program that enables a demographically and geographically diverse student population to attend. We welcome support from individuals, corporations, and foundations for both our scholarship program and general operation funds.
I toured the NFA with SNO and his mère. They’ve got an absolutely top notch adjunct to the Naval Aviation Museum, an immersive camp experience that will introduce young people to the dream of flight while exposing them to the underlying science, technology, engineering and math that supports it. The facilities are impressive, the sponsorship by industry gratifying, the considerations for safety and well-being comprehensive. There very well might be a young person you know who could profit from it.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
And we are very much in need of fire.