Venture crew program allows teens to explore aviation

Archuleta County’s Stevens Field has established a “Venture Crew” for the purpose of teaching 14- to 20-year-olds the ways of general aviation.

Though its first session is now in the books, there is still time (and space) for interested young adults to join. Annual registration is just $10, and the first 10 or 12 weeks of the yearlong program are devoted to Private Pilot Ground School. Following successful course completion, students may take a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) written exam in preparation of further flight training.

“Venturing,” as it’s referred to by the Boy Scouts of America (BSoA), is a development program for young men and women who have completed the eighth grade. Based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth, adult leaders and select community organizations, young people are able to pursue particular special interests while developing leadership skills and blossoming into responsible caring adults. The BSoA charters venture crews all across America.

As venturers, participants share an oath and code, which instill values consistent with spiritual strength, truth, fairness and goodwill. They learn how to make ethical choices, take on leadership roles and grow in a supportive environment, while acquiring skills in sports, arts and hobbies, religious life and high adventure.

Youth officers lead the crews. Adult advisors and leaders serve in a “shadow” capacity, by working with youth officers in a spirit of partnership. Confronting “ethical controversies” assists youth in recognizing appropriate choices, through learning to identify risk and how it affects others. In the act of problem-solving, students employ empathy and invention, thereby gleaning viable solutions to explicit concerns.

Locally, according to ground school instructor Anne Kautsky, The Stevens Field Venture Crew will discover and experience many aspects of general aviation.

“Venture Crew members may study flight training, aircraft mechanics, aviation-related weather, air traffic control, the various functions of the FAA, anything,” Kautsky said. “The pilot ground school is just part of it.”

Airport manager Bill McKown will formally present the Venture Crew plan to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners Feb. 3, but feels confident the board will openly endorse it.

“I’m sure the BoCC will support the program, which is an evening activities group focused on developing aviation careers,” McKown said in a recent phone interview. “The program is year-round, and unlimited membership is coeducational.”

McKown added that crew members meet Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m., in the Technology Suites across Cornerstone Drive from the new Sears store. So far, the crew includes six youth members — four from Pagosa Springs High School and two from Mancos — plus three adult leaders, including two from Pagosa Springs and another from Durango.

Both, youth and adult participants pay an annual $10 registration fee for the venturing program, yet Kautsky said the Private Pilot Ground School is free to members. Non-members are normally charged $100 for the course.

As a program chartered by the BSoA, the venture crew is automatically covered under BSoA liability insurance. The county, however, will have to provide accident and medical coverage, which, if not already in place, is attainable through local Boy Scout councils, at a modest cost.

“I love aviation,” said Pagosa resident Preston Dale, 17. “It’s a great experience for me. I started at the FBO (fixed base operations) servicing planes.”

Having just completed a related “School to Work” program at the airport, Dale is now part of the Stevens Field Venture Crew and pilot ground school. “I want to get my pilot’s license as soon as I can,” he said at a recent Airport Advisory Commission meeting. “I want to get the classroom part over with soon, so I can start actual flight training.”

Once having successfully passed the FAA written exam, students must pass a medical exam and log 40 to 60 hours flight time, including roughly 35 hours of dual time and 25 hours solo time. Depending on the actual number of hours necessary to gain instructor endorsement, student pilots will spend between $6,000 and $8,000 in the process of obtaining a pilot license.

Both, McKown and Kautsky suggest that several ground school students will chose not to pursue further flight training, but many will move on to develop aviation-related careers. McKown encourages all 14- to 20-year-olds interested in aviation to consider joining the Stevens Field Venture Crew. He’s also recruiting additional adult leaders.

For more information on the crew, aviation, flight training or Stevens Field, contact Bill McKown at 731-3060, or drop by a Thursday, 6 p.m. venture crew meeting at the Technology Suites across from Sears.