MOJAVE -- A week of plane rides, thorough learning of the principles of aeronautics, hands-on flight simulations, safety drills and tours of leading aerospace companies greeted two Tehachapi High students and a mathematics instructor at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Between June 23 and June 29, students Jessyca Berman, 16, and Emma Ruano, 16, along with math instructor Kathleen McFarland, participated in a week long short course at the National Test Pilot School
The flight test camp emphasizes an introduction to flight test engineering and possibly opening them up to pursuing such a career path. The camp also puts a spotlight on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.
"It's definitely very interesting and it goes into a lot of depth that I'm not used to, so it's nice to get to experience all this new aerodynamic kind of stuff," Berman, who will be a junior when school starts in August.
This marks the second year Tehachapi high school students have participated in the program. The program currently takes students from high schools in Tehachapi, California City, Mojave, Rosamond, Boron and from Edwards Desert High School.
The test pilot school is the only civilian one in the United States and trains its professional students by U.S. Air Force standards, focusing on performance and flying qualities testing and avionic systems testing. Most of the test pilots and engineers that enroll in the professional program are foreigners.
"Since we offer kind of a unique school, we thought it would be good to introduce flight tests to juniors and seniors, and let them see what is available here in the Antelope Valley," said Mike Hill, the flight school's business operations director and a test pilot instructor.
Hill said that since the National Test Pilot School is a non-profit institution that helps expand professional pilots' skills, the test flight camp is free for camps
In addition to academics, flight simulations, hands-on safety drills and the two plane flights, the students also toured many of the companies at Mojave Air and Space Port, including Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, the companies that developed SpaceShip Two.
Berman, who belongs to the robotics team at Tehachapi High, said one her more memorable moments at the camp was participating in one of two flights.
"I was kind of nervous at first, but it was really fun," she said. "I didn't know it was going to be that nice to see out the window and looking below you."
She added that the entire program, while new, has opened up a new concept of engineering for her to consider as a career.
Ruano, who will be a senior in August, had a similar experience.
"This has definitely brought flight testing to my knowledge," Ruano said, who said she has considered an Air Force career. "I didn't know about it before this and I'm really interested in going into the field and looking more into it."
Ruano received encouragement from different teachers to attend the test flight camp.
"I figure if three or people bring it to your attention, it might be something you look in to," Ruano said. "I'm happy I did."
That's part of the entire point of the program, said Hill, the flight instructor.
"The flight test camp was designed to be part of a STEM program," said Hill. "If they have a chance to see something early on, maybe it will change their mind (about careers)."
McFarland, the math instructor, agreed.
"To have this opportunity and resources so close to Tehachapi is wonderful," said McFarland. "The staff is very kind, very knowledgeable and very helpful to the kids and it's just neat that you can take a company like this and help shape what students want to do with their futures."
It's an experience high school students like Ruano and Berman won't soon forget.
"It's been the first time I've ever been in a plane," said Ruano, a senior at Tehachapi High. "It was really interesting to get up there and see what it's like."
She added that it added a whole new perspective.
"Getting off the plane and just realizing you were 6,000 feet above the ground and walking on the ground, you feel so small again," Ruano said. "That was the biggest thing for me -- I want to be back up in the air again."