By Robbie Owens

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – For many North Texas students, ‘summer camp’ means swimming all day, arts, crafts, and of course sports. But, a lucky group of teenagers are learning to take a fresh look at aviation careers and a weeklong camp at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth gives them a spectacular view.

“I was like really surprised,” says 16-year-old Krysti Veal. “I looked on the little schedule and it said ‘flying a real plane’ and I was like ‘WHAT?! They’re going to have us doing that already?’ ”

Yep.

“They’ll come up to us and say ‘I never knew this was available to me’,” says TCC Instructor and private pilot Mark Loud. “I never knew I could do this.”

At the ‘ACE’ Aviation Career Education camp, childhood curiosities are encouraged to grow wings.

“They told me Pluto was no longer a planet when I was four, and I was like ‘No! No! I’m not going to let this happen’,” says Krysti with a laugh. With little interest in princesses, Krysti decided early that she wanted to fly.

“Last year, I went on a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls,” recalls Krysti. “The pilot there told me all about aviation and flight and how 1% of all pilots are women and like an even smaller percentage of that are African American, and I was like, that that seems like a really good paying job.”

The ACE Summer camp, hosted by TCC and UNT is a way for campers to try their wings, see if they’re serious and learn about a variety of aviation careers.

“They come wondering, and they leave knowing all of the things that could be available to them,” says Loud, “and there’s a lot more than just flying airplanes. There’s all kinds of career opportunities.”

Landry Roberts wants to join the Air Force one day; but, says the camp has taught him that there are a “lot more opportunities in aviation than I had imagined”, and then adding that the camps has “been amazing actually.”
The weeklong camp includes field trips, drone training, and of course, the opportunity to pilot a plane– with an experience and brave co-pilot alongside, of course.
“I am very excited,” says Landry about his opportunity to pilot. “I cannot wait,” he adds with a laugh, “all of my friends told me to take pictures for them.”

“They want to fly an airplane and nothing gets a person hooked, to be involved in aviation even if they’re not going to be flying them– than jumping in an airplane and flying it and getting that feeling of freedom,” says Loud, who flies his own personal plane to work at the college near Alliance Airport every day. “They’ll love it. They always have a blast when they do.”

Once back on the ground, Krysti admits that the experience was exciting– but, a little “scary” as well. Still, she absolutely intends to do it again.

“There’s nothing that you can’t do, the only person stopping you is you!” says Krysti with a passion and wisdom of one much older. “If there’s something you want to do, you can you can work toward that and make your dreams happen.”