Students Jazzed over flight simulator


A flight simulator has some Okotoks high school students reaching new heights in their education.

Wes Harder, a captain with Jazz Aviation, was busy on Nov. 24 giving Grade 12 Foothills Composite student Travis Burnell instructions on how to take off from the Okotoks airport on the new simulator at the school.

“I want you to level off at about 5,000 (feet),” Harder said while instructing Burnell. “You never turn out of the circuit — like you’re leaving an airport — never turn out below 1,000 feet above ground.”

Burnell’s flight would have received a thumb’s up from Sully or Chris Hadfield — it was cool, calm and collected.

“I did well — it was really clear and no difficulties,” Burnell said. “Taking off, it’s really touchy. The plane would naturally want to take off to the left, but this thing is really sensitive.”

Jazz Aviation donated the $10,000 simulator to the Comp in early November, not only to provide one of the coolest learning opportunities to students in Alberta, but also to spark an interest in flying.

Burnell’s long-term goal is to attend Mount Royal University Aviation with the aim of becoming a pilot.

“This will just get me prepared,” Burnell said of the simulator. “It won’t count towards it (becoming a pilot), but it will get me started.”

That was music to the Jazz captain’s ears.

“We want to teach young people about the advantages of getting into aviation — there is such a great need for it and it is such a great career,” Harder said. “There is a world-wide shortage of pilots right now.”

Harder was able to convince Jazz Aviation that donating a simulator to the Foothills Comp would help pave the way to getting young students interested in flying.

“Jazz has been very much a leader in developing future pilots,” Harder said.

Since getting the simulator approximately 60 students have sat in the cockpit and there are close to 30 students in the aviation club.

They are quick learners. Burnell and student Clayton Harder will be teaching other students on the simulator in the near future.

The simulator is also connected with the Comp’s robotics program.

“Jazz’s idea is to build capacity for aviation with the dream in terms of building professionals in the industry as pilots retire,” said Foothills Robotics instructor Chris Ginakos. “Our vision is to look at autonomous air flight, essential autonomous vehicles like drones… The idea is to consider all the different challenges of flight, before you consider how a drone actually works.”

There is potential for a credited aviation course at the Comp in the future.

“We are hoping to be in a position where kids are walking out of here with their ground-school piece,” said Foothills Comp principal Vince Hunter.

First-hand experience in the flight sim by Brent Calver, Staff Photographer

As I climbed into the pilot’s seat, I took hold of the yoke, settled my feet into the pedals.

My flight instructor, Wes Harder of Jazz Aviation, shepherded me onto the runway, pointing out controls as I went.

After a couple experimental nudges of the controls I got a feel for how the plane would respond to my input and increased the throttle for take-off, to the apprehension of my backseat driver, Bruce Campbell.

After a dodgy lift-off due to poor pedal work, I was in the air, turning smoothly to head southeast from Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

I looked out the side “windows” (two monitors mounted at the sides of the fuselage), and while the landscape wasn’t too detailed, I could see the distinctly Dutch strips of farmland.

Once I’d gotten a feel for the controls, I abandoned all decorum, putting the plane into a barrel roll, holding upside down and pushing the yoke ahead to make the plane sweep forward onto its belly.

I decided to investigate the building detail up close, brushing the tops of trees as I zipped over the Dutch countryside.

At this point Bruce decided to bail, likely setting down in a cattle pasture somewhere near Utrecht.

My instructor, Harder, gave me pointers to pull back when the g-forces (which simulate red vision flares on the screen) became too much.

Obviously looking for an out, he pointed to a runway at my 2 o’clock.

I guided the plane in, dropped my landing gear with the toggle below the yoke, and put out my flaps, slowing the plane. I managed to get the plane somewhat level and low as I came in for my landing, but my efforts were for naught, as my journey ended in flames.

Apparently you should try to land in the same direction as the runway.


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