Harlingen schools to open Aviation Academy

dfwnewsa | February 23, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Harlingen schools to open Aviation Academy
A Harlingen CISD student is seen inside the cockpit of an airplane as part of a new aviation program Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Courtesy of Harlingen CISD)

HARLINGEN – His grandfather’s a pilot.

His father is a pilot.

Now 13-year-old Luke Ritter wants to be a pilot.

“I’m extremely happy that HCISD has created an aviation program,” said Luke, an eighth grader at Memorial Middle School.

The Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District has just announced plans to open a new Aviation Academy so students can earn their private pilot license by the time they graduate from high school.

“According to the FAA you can start flight school at age 16,” said Raul Alvarez, director of career and technology education at the district.

“It’s kind of scary when you think about flying, but we have driver’s for our kids at 15,” Alvarez said. “The only difference is it’s different highway from the ground to the sky.”

The school district had considered the creation of an aviation program for many years but when J.A. Gonzalez took over as superintendent last year, the talk began to materialize.

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“We were speaking about student opportunities and offerings in our district,” Alvarez said. “He was looking at ideas where we could expand on what we can do in Cameron County that’s different from what other people are doing.”

The only other aviation academy in the Valley is in the McAllen school district and it was created during Gonzalez’s tenure as the district’s superintendent. Therefore, he already had the experience of an aviation academy to bring to Harlingen.

“One of the things we looked at was the high demand and high wage professions,” Gonzalez said of the discussions with Alvarez.

Harlingen CISD students board an airplane as part of a new aviation program Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Courtesy of Harlingen CISD)

“If you look at the aviation industry all the research is pointing to the fact that we’re going to have a shortage of pilots,” Gonzalez said. “The last article I looked at by 2034 we’re going to have a world wide 80,000 pilot shortage. Part of that is just in the commercial pilot world, the first step toward a commercial pilot license is the private pilot license.”


Certainly commercial pilots are in demand, but the market is also wide open for crop dusters, drone pilots, and military flyers.

“There is a lot of need for drone pilots for the border patrol or architectural firms,” he said.

The district is already laying the pipeline for an aviation pathway, Alvarez explained.

“In the ninth grade we looked at principles of transportation systems,” he said. “We already offered that course in our district, so that’s great, that’s awesome. Then we go to tenth grade we have introduction to unmanned aerial vehicles, drones.”

And in the 11th grade, aviation students will begin training with Mitri Garib, owner of Valley Wings Flight School.

“I’m very excited to be in partnership with HCISD and the Aviation Academy,” said Garib, who is already teaching students at the Marine Military Academy.

“I’m very happy and I feel very blessed to be a part of it,” he said. “I think it’s an excellent opportunity for all the students to have another career choice, and I’m excited to have that opportunity to work with worth the kids.”

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Luke Ritter is pretty excited too.

“I have thought of maybe becoming a commercial pilot,” he said.

The post Harlingen schools to open Aviation Academy appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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