Shawnee Simulator Helps Students' Dreams of Flying Take Off

New FAA-approved flight simulator is only one of its kind on KY school campus 

March 10, 2022 – Jalelia Wydman has been working toward her goal of becoming a pilot ever since she started at the Academy @ Shawnee four years ago. As a student in the school’s Flight and Aeronautics pathway, she has access to tabletop computer simulators, and logs training hours flying on the weekends when the weather allows.

But thanks to the school’s new Red Bird Full Motion Flight Simulator, Jalelia’s dream is about to take flight.

“This is the best opportunity we’ve got in aviation,” she said, gesturing to the simulator. “I mean, just look at it!”

Student practicing in new Shawnee flight simulator
Shawnee unveiled its new, FAA-approved flight simulator today, offering students real-world, “fly the plane” experience in an authentic cockpit. The simulator provides dynamic learning opportunities for aspiring pilots – so realistic, in fact, that the FAA will count up to five hours of training in it toward the 40 needed for a pilot’s license. 

“It’s amazingly realistic,” said aviation instructor Dixon Jones. “There are things we can realistically do in this that wouldn’t have been possible for us to do in terms of duplication of skills.”

The simulator also provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable, authentic experience in a safe environment.  Or, as senior Matthew Bailey put it, “we can test out things that you wouldn’t want to test out mid-air.”

Shawnee’s program has utilized tabletop simulators for years, but the new full motion simulator provides a more realistic experience, and allows students to continue training even in bad weather.

“As we know, the weather in Kentucky can be crazy so we may have kids who are supposed to go to the airport to fly who are unable to,” said James Moore, instructional lead for Career and Technical Education. “This helps them stay fresh and stay brushed up on their skills, which can actually help lower the amount of hours that are required for them to get their certifications.”

Emblazoned with Shawnee’s gold and blue branding, the $105,000 simulator was built onsite at the beginning of March, and is the only one located on a school campus in Kentucky, said Robert Moore, JCPS chief of schools and Shawnee alumnus.

“This is another example of our commitment to bringing state-of-the-art programs and equipment to JCPS schools,” Moore said, “particularly those in the West End that have historically been under-resourced.”

 Although senior Luke Lush will soon graduate from the Aviation program, he’s looking beyond his own graduation for what this investment will mean for students and the school.

“I’m really excited, but I’m more excited for the next generation,” Luke said. “I was showing my brother pictures of the flight sim as it was getting built and he was like, ‘Man, I really want to go to Shawnee now!’ and I was like, ‘You should! Go become a pilot!’”