For more than 30 years Linwood DeBrew has worked to keep local kids off the streets — particularly in the southeast area near Moton Community House, where he is executive director.
Now DeBrew is raising the standards, hoping to help lift a new crop of students literally off the ground and beyond their horizons.
We're talking flying lessons.
Working in conjunction with the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport and Global Aviation Services, Moton House, which is run by the Greater Southeast Development Corp., is recruiting students to take a 90-day course that includes flying lessons as well as training in math, reading and computers.
The Hampton Roads Aviation program is targeting people 16 to 24 years of age, a group that has been somewhat frustrating for community outreach workers.
"We see that as an age where some kids are dropping out of school," DeBrew said, "and where others are trapped between being a teenager and being a young adult. ... It's an age where you began to see a lot of young people standing around."
DeBrew said program participants who are 18 or older will also work toward their GED, and those younger will be targeted toward in-school GED programs. With the help of federal grant money, DeBrew hopes to provide training for five students every 90 days, about 20 in a year.
Students can come from within 60 miles of Hampton Roads, including Richmond, DeBrew said.
Cleveland White, president of Global Aviation Services of Williamsburg, will coordinate the flying portion, and is helping secure sponsors.
The usual fees of about $100 per hour will be paid through federal grants and sponsorships. The program will cost about $1 million to run each year, and starts out with a $3 million federal grant, White said.
Some of the young people expected to enroll in the program are already in other programs at Moton House.
Another partner is the Fort Eustis campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which provides more specialized training after initial levels of pilot licensing.
The flying lessons will be conducted at the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport, which has run a flight school off and on since opening in 1970.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Williamsburg flight school, like so many in the country, was driven out of business by new security measures and by higher insurance premiums, said Jean Waltrip, manager/owner at the airport.
Waltrip reopened the flight school as Colonial Air Center almost two years ago. Today, Colonial students fly daily from 7 a.m. to dark.
She said the students in the Moton House program will probably fly after school and on weekends.
During the 90-day period, the students are expected to accumulate the required 40 hours of flying time to get their private flying license.
"I think it's a great program," Waltrip said. "An airport is a great place to be... and there are so many pilots around who become mentors for these students."
Once a student earns the initial license, he or she can continue training for an instrument license (90 additional hours) and go on for commercial training (250 hours).
The students will train on a Cherokee 180 or a Cessna 172, both single-engine, four-seat aircraft.
Waltrip said the flight training comes at a good time because there is a need for both pilots and flight instructors.
She pointed out that even the unmanned aircraft used in warfare today must be operated by someone who has a pilot's license.
Previous flight school students flew in Operation Desert Storm, and astronaut David Brown, who died in the 2003 explosion of space shuttle Columbia, also was a Williamsburg flight school student, Waltrip said.
White said the aviation program aims to build homegrown pilots in a field that is losing numbers. Global Aviation specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles and aviation logistics.
"With the baby boomers, a lot of pilots are retiring," he said. "So we need young people to take the place of these older people. The only way we can do this is to have programs like this."
Aviation program Organized by the Moton Community House, Global Aviation Services and Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport. For 16- to 24-year-olds. Provides classroom instruction and 40 hours of flying time. Program includes training in math, reading and computers. Expected to be free for participants.To participate, call Linwood DeBrew at 245-1744.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun