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Aviation careers promise good future

Photo by Andrea Johnson/MDN Branson Keeley, a student in the aviation technology class at Minot High School-Magic City Campus, works in class on Nov. 23.

Students in the Aviation Technology program at Minot High School have a leg up on others who are interested in aviation careers.

“It’s all for free,” said Meric Murphy, the instructor, as his students practiced air traffic control procedures last Wednesday in their classroom at Magic City Campus. “This would cost $150 to $200 an hour if they were doing it on the outside.”

Each computer has its own call sign, like Lima or Foxtrot, and students were practicing the procedures needed to safely direct an aircraft off the runway and into the air.

“They don’t have to memorize it because they use it so much during the year,” said Murphy.

Student Branson Keeley, whose dad is in the Air Force, said he is interested in an aviation career and going into the Air Force.

Student Noah Miller, who is also in Minot High’s ROTC program, said hopes to earn an ROTC scholarship and enroll in the aviation program at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Murphy said the software program, which is less sophisticated than more expensive equipment, still enables the students to practice about 90% of what they could in a more realistic simulator. Those who take two years of aviation technology at Magic City Campus will log hundreds of hours of instruction that will enable them to accelerate through their pilot training and obtain certification more quickly and sometimes at less expense. They also will fly simulations in which multiple instruments on an aircraft are inoperable and in hazardous conditions and do it successfully.

“You earn your keep about once a year being a pilot,” said Murphy.

Murphy, a former air traffic controller at Minot Air Force Base, tells his students that if they apply themselves to their education, they will go far in the field.

He said high schools in many of the larger districts in the state have similar programs funded in part through grants as there was a concern about the shortage of pilots.

Murphy said there is a shortage of people going into all fields of aviation right now, so students in his aviation technology classes will be highly employable as air traffic controllers, pilots, in aircraft maintenance, or airport operations. Many of his students have gone on to aviation careers.

“It’s unlimited right now,” said Murphy.

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