My Experience At The National Flight Academy by Emer Harte
I had the experience of a life time at the National Flight Academy (NFA) in Pensacola, Florida! It was nine days of non-stop action which I enjoyed hugely and met many new friends.
I enjoy Maths and Science in school, so when I saw the notice in the newspaper looking for 12-15 year olds, with an interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects to go to the NFA in Florida with the Galway Education Centre, I immediately applied. I was both nervous and excited when I heard that I would be going to America. The Galway Education Centre organized pre-trip meetings where they informed us about the trip and gave us a chance to get to know the other ambassadors and the three teachers from the Galway Education Centre (Kate, Paddy and Maeve), who would accompany us on the trip.
On the 3rd of August, we met at Dublin Airport at 6am, all dressed in our matching ‘Aviator of the Future’ gear. We had a long flight to Atlanta, Georgia and then a further short flight to Pensacola, Florida. We were exhausted when we arrived but we were given a warm welcome by Hank, Kathy and all the others from the National Flight Academy. After many photos, we headed for the NFA, which had been renamed the International Flight Academy, just for us.
We were shown to our staterooms and were given time to unpack before having our first dinner in America- pizza! We stayed up late that night with Chief Chrissy and Chief Lonex, getting to know each other. It was great fun.
As the course wasn’t starting until Sunday we had a free day which we mainly spent on Pensacola beach. It was beautiful. We slapped on the sun cream and ran for the water. With the sun and the sea, we couldn’t have been happier. Later that evening we were taken to the local shopping centre for some quick shopping! We had a barbeque that night. What a start for our first day! I couldn’t wait to see what we would be doing for the next 5 days.
We spent the next few days living on Ambition, a simulated air craft carrier. It was so real that I actually felt like I was living on a huge ship. We were all put into squadrons. I was part of the Chargers, and Chrissy and Jennifer were our chiefs. Throughout the week, they made a huge effort to make us feel welcome and make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
Every morning we were woken by the trumpet blowing the wake-up call at 6.30am (not exactly what I had planned for a week in Florida!!) We had a quick shower, then breakfast at 7.30am and we were sitting at our stations at 8am, ready for a day of action! Our days involved spending time in the JIC (Joint Intelligence Centre), JOC (Joint Operations Centre) and on the simulators. In the JIC we planned our flight paths using computers and smart boards. This is where we put our everyday Maths skills into action. In the JOC, we used head sets and computers to help and advise the other squadrons, who were ‘flying’ using the simulators. While on the simulators, we learned to fly planes and took part in many tasks such as air rallies and rescue missions. We were given a task of rescuing people from a collision between a cruise ship and a cargo ship. Unfortunately, my flight buddy and I weren’t the most successful! – Good job it was only on simulators!!
During the week, we were taken to see the Blue Angels air show, an air traffic control tower and the Rescue Swimmers School. On our final night in America, we went to a local baseball match with the staff of the National Flight Academy. We also got a bit of shopping done too! It was a great finish to a great week.
I loved every minute of my time in Pensacola and I would really like to go back there again some time. I am very grateful to everyone at the National Flight Academy and to Kate, Paddy and Maeve, from the Galway Education Centre for the care we were given while abroad. I would strongly recommend the whole experience to anyone who is interested in the STEM subjects (and a good time!). I had the time of my life and I will remember this experience forever.