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Aviation careers in sight for Wooddale’s ‘fly boys’


Dreaming about making six figures in an aviation job is just a dream for many, but is close to reality for Wooddale High School seniors Darius Hooker and Wesley Carter.

by Dena L. Owens
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Dreaming about making six figures in an aviation job is just a dream for many, but is close to reality for Wooddale High School seniors Darius Hooker and Wesley Carter. Hooker and Carter graduate on May 13, and at the same time, each will earn his pilot license.

Wesley Carter (left) is the vice president of the Wooddale Rocket Team and Darius Hooker (right) is the team’s president. (Courtesy photo)

The two “fly boys” – a as they are called – are members of the Wooddale Rocket Team, a group of students in the school’s aviation program, which introduces them to aerospace careers. Students learn how to design, build and launch rockets, which teaches them science, technology, creative strategy and engineering. They also spend numerous hours in simulated airplanes at the school to teach them aircraft piloting skills.

 “I’ve always been interested in planes – how they are designed and how they are built, said Hooker. “When Wesley and I met, we became like a tag team to support each other’s success in aviation training.”

Hooker and Carter met in 2008 at an aviation camp. Since then, they are as close as brothers and their families are intertwined in supporting the students as they move toward aviation careers.

“When we started this, some students called us nerds and didn’t understand why we couldn’t always hang out,” said Carter. “This is a blessing for us and our futures, and we’ll help those following us.”

The “fly boys” are advised by Jeff Holms – school instructor, pilot, and director of Wooddale’s aviation program  – and supported by experts in the community – Gary Cole, a retired CPA who leads the Rocket Society at Shelby Farms, and Bill Wood, a retired executive and activist for aviation careers. The program and its supporters have led Hooker and Carter to solid career paths that will help them earn high salaries by their early twenties.

After graduation from Wooddale, Hooker will attend Mid-South Community College to complete coursework for an aircraft frame and power plant license. He will then begin a paid internship at FedEx as an aircraft mechanic while completing his degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in aeronautic engineering.

Once Carter receives his diploma, he will attend Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro to earn a bachelor’s degree in air traffic control through the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Starting with his freshman year, Carter will work in a paid internship as an air traffic controller.

Wooddale’s aviation program is in its third year of existence, and hard work by members of the current team has paid off. The team has been invited to compete as a finalist in the 2012 Team America Rocketry Challenge in Washington D.C. on May 12.  Only100 teams were selected for the national competition among 678 teams nationwide.  The contest involves launching a student-designed rocket carrying two eggs (without breaking them) for a flight lasting between 43 and 47 seconds. The team’s rocket scored a “2” – with “0” being a perfect – to earn a finalist spot.

Following the May 12 contest, the top 10 teams will split $60,000 in cash and scholarships. The best teams will have the opportunity to fly to London, England to see the Farnborough International Airshow and compete in an international rocketry tournament.

“We know there’s stiff competition out there and that’s a little intimidating,” said Hooker. “But we also know there are teams with not as much knowledge as we have, and we’re ready for this challenge.”


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