Aviation — manned and unmanned aviation — has become a hot industry.

Or as Porterville Military Academy principal Doug Ihmels put it there's plenty of “high wage, high demand jobs in the aviation industry.”

So PMA began the process this year of offering a four-year aviation program at the school. The Aviation Owners and Pilots Association has developed the program in which PMA is using.

So the PMA freshmen who enrolled in Aviation I this school year will be able to take an Aviation class during their whole four years at the school if they choose. In 2021-22, they'll be able to take Aviation II as sophomores and in 2022-23 they'll be able to take Aviation III as juniors.

The Porterville Unified School District is completing the process in which Aviation IV will also be offered to those freshmen in 2023-2024 when they're seniors.

The process of offering a comprehensive aviation program at PMA actually began a couple of years ago when the school received a flight simulator

Students who complete all four Aviation classes along with completing the number of required hours in the air will be able to obtain their pilot's license . And students who also complete the entire Aviation program will be able to take a test to earn their certificate to operate drones.

While the operation of drones may not seem that complex, it is. Two PMA math teachers, Minervo Ramirez and Tyler Bowser recently passed the test to be certified drone operators. Ramirez will be the teacher for the Aviation program.

Ihmels said even for math teachers like Ramirez and Bowser, the test was difficult. “You really need to know what you're doing to pass it,” said Ihmels about the test.

The use of drones is endless, Ihmels said, as they are being used and will be used for delivering packages and groceries, by fire and law enforcement departments and by the forest service just to make a few. “There's just so many applications,” Ihmels said. “That's clearly where things are going.”

The Aviation program also covers more than just flying planes and drones. It also covers such areas as building plans and air traffic control. “In all these areas they need more people,” said Ihmels about the entire aviation industry.

Students in any grade level at PMA can enroll in Aviation I. Seventh through 11th graders who want to enroll in Aviation I can call PMA at 782-7300.

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