Browne Students are Flying Through Local Aviation Program

March 14, 2023

Two students, a boy and a girl, sit on steps outside

Fifth graders Sachio and Sasha are soaring high, not just figuratively in Browne classrooms, but literally as flight students in the Alexandria-Fairfax Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s Aviation Program. Run in conjunction with the Northern Virginia Urban League (NVUL), this program provides in-depth instruction, flight simulation, and actual flight hours to its students. This cost-free program’s mission is to introduce students of color to the world of aviation and the possibilities therein.

The Kappa Alpha Psi house is equipped with everything the students need for flight school, including simulators, and a retired military pilot is the instructor. Sachio and Sasha, who are in the advanced class, both credited Browne’s math curriculum as immensely helpful to their flight study. Sasha said, “In 4th grade, we studied radials and diameter. These concepts helped as we learned how to turn the plane for landing.”

Sachio said math also comes into play when calculating airspeed and altitude; controlling the ailerons, which level the plane out when it’s landing; and operating the rutters, which help steer the plane when it is on the ground.

The program also teaches real-world skills associated with safety and how to handle life-threatening situations. Sachio and Sasha learned about the IMSAFE acronym, a safety tool pilots use to determine whether they are fit to fly. (IMSAFE stands for Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotion.) The students noted that Browne’s advisory program helps with this serious aspect of learning to fly, as they learn self-reflection and how to speak up and advocate. They said that school counselor Serie Haeseler plays a big role in helping students navigate their feelings and maintain healthy friendships, an important aspect of the IMSAFE checklist. (Speaking of friendships, they also mentioned that their classmate Lesleigh has joined aviation classes with them.)

The students are not just speaking from classroom and simulation experience: They both have already actually flown a Cessna 172! Along with a flight instructor, Sachio and Sasha have been in the air, even performing a loop-de-loop! While a pilot must be 18 years old to get a license, the Browne students are able to earn flight hours until they are of age. Sachio said that the program has made him interested in becoming a pilot professionally. Sasha would like to get her license but sees flying more as a hobby. We can’t wait to see them continue to reach new heights.

Click to watch WUSA’s story on Kappa Alpha Psi’s pilot program!