Ambassadors to the National Flight Academy ,Pensacola


Aviator of the Future Ambassadors 2013

Today we are meeting our new Aviator of the Future Ambassadors for 2013 who will be representing Galway and Ireland.

Here you can see the Ambassadors and their parents at the Orientation Meeting in GEC

The Galway Education Centre has chosen 12 students from County Galway, aged 12-15 to take part in the “Aviator of the Future” programme from July 26th to August 4th, 2013.

These students will fly to The National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, and take part in a special six day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, ‘Ambition’.

This is the continuation of the last year’s momentous agreement with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA.

The Aviators of the Future programme aims to create a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) among students in County Galway.


This renewal of the agreement between the Galway Education Centre and The National Flight Academy marks another historic milestone as last year the 12 students from Galway were the very first international students on board the ‘Ambition’.

In 2012 The Galway Education Centre signed a momentous agreement with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA to send 12 school children from Galway aged 12-15 to take part in the inaugural “Aviator of the Future ” programme. For twelve lucky schoolchildren it was the opportunity of a lifetime! They flew to The National Flight Academy in the United States and took part in a special five day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, Ambition. Ambition is designed to simulate a modern aircraft carrier with three decks catering for everything from simulation and immersion centre spaces to academic spaces, mess decks and accommodation berthing. The programme is to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills along with critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication.

Thanks to two of our 2012 Ambassadors who passed on their wisdom to our new Ambassadors.

Aviator of the Future 2013

The Galway Education Centre are seeking 12 students from County Galway, aged 12-15 to take part in the “Aviator of the Future” programme from July 26th to August 4th, 2013.

These students will fly to The National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, and take part in a special six day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, ‘Ambition’.

This is the continuation of the last year’s momentous agreement with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA.

The Aviators of the Future programme aims to create a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) among students in County Galway.

This renewal of the agreement between the Galway Education Centre and The National Flight Academy marks another historic milestone as last year the 12 students from Galway were the very first international students on board the ‘Ambition’

“To be in a position to again offer Irish students an opportunity like this is amazing”, said Bernard Kirk, Director of The Galway Education Centre, “Through our work in the area, we are very aware of the high standards in STEM subjects among our students here in Ireland. We are delighted with the way the partnership has developed over the past year and look forward to working closely with the NFA and TEQ Games @ Universal Studios for a considerable number of years to come”.

Application forms for the Aviators of the Future programme are available to download from Closing date for applications is 5:00 pm on Monday, June 24 th 2013.

For further press information, to request interviews or photography, please contact Galway Education Centre at 091 745600. Email:

Aviators of The Future Scholarships 2013

Galway Education Centre invites applications for scholarships for the second annual Aviator of the Future Programme. The scholarships funded, by Galway Education Centre and the National Fight Academy Pensacola Florida will provide free flights and accommodation for 12 students on the Aviator of the Future Programme.


In 2012 The Galway Education Centre signed a momentous agreement with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA to send 12 school children from Galway aged 12-15 to take part in the inaugural “Aviator of the Future ” programme. For twelve lucky schoolchildren it was the opportunity of a lifetime! They flew to The National Flight Academy in the United States and took part in a special five day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, Ambition. Ambition is designed to simulate a modern aircraft carrier with three decks catering for everything from simulation and immersion centre spaces to academic spaces, mess decks and accommodation berthing. The programme is to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills along with critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication. For further information see

Who is eligible to apply?

· All students over 12 years of age and under 16 years of age on August 1st, 2013.

· All students who are full time residents in County Galway on the date of application.

· Students who have a current passport.

· Students who are available to travel between July 26th and August 4th.

· Students who can provide two referees contact details including one from a teacher.

The Committee of the Galway Education Centre may at any stage, seek additional information from individual candidates or referees. The Committee reserve all rights to modify at any time and/or to terminate this scholarship scheme and/or to make whatever decision in regard to the operation of this scholarship scheme that may be required and their determination(s) on all these matter shall be final and there shall be no right to appeal.

How to apply for a scholarship?

Applications are invited from all students living in County Galway and between the ages of 12 and 16 on August 1st 2013 and who meet the eligibility criteria.

Each candidate must submit:

1. A completed application form providing their personal details, his/her educational history, a personal statement and the names and contact details of two referees one of whom must be a teacher.

Application forms can be viewed and printed off from the Galway Education Centre website

2. A two minute YouTube video outlining the reasons they wish to attend and activities he/she has been involved in to date. The YouTube piece must be uploaded to YouTube and set at private. The password to access the YouTube video must be included on the application form in order that the selection Committee can view the video. Instructions are provided in Appendix 1.

Where and when to send completed Application forms?

Applications may be posted or delivered to Galway Education Centre, Cluain Mhuire, Wellpark, Galway, by 5:00pm on Monday June 24th, 2013. It is the applicants’ responsibility to ensure the applications are submitted before the deadline.

What are the selection criteria?

The Committee of the Galway Education Centre has established a selection panel for assessing all applications. Significant importance and preference will be given to candidates who display interest and achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. An interest in aviation and/or gaming is not essential. As in 2012 the selection committee will be looking to select ambassadors who will represent Ireland and therefore interpersonal skills, communication skills and evidence of experience of teamwork will rate highly.

However the selection panel will also review and evaluate the merits and eligibility of candidates using several other criteria including;

(1) the candidates’ motivation, disposition and commitment to benefit from scholarship to The National Flight Academy.

(2) the candidates personal statement will bear on their likelihood of success.

(3) feedback from the referees.

The selection panel will prepare a shortlist of candidates and some candidates may be required to attend an interview with the selection panel. The interview will principally focus on the candidates’ application particularly their personal statement and interpersonal skills and the degree to which he/she meets the selection criteria. Candidates to be called for interview will be given two days notice of the place, time and location of the interview.


The decisions of the selection are final and there will be no right of appeal and the selection committee will not enter into any oral or written communication regarding the final selections.

Galway’s Pioneering Aviators of the Future are honoured

The Science Gallery in Dublin will today honour 3 teachers and 12 schoolchildren from County Galway who last year were crowned the first ever “Aviators of the Future” in The Galway Education Centre’s ground breaking new project in partnership with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA.


Tonight the impressive group will meet Daraine Mulvihill from RTE’s The Science Squad at The Science Gallery where they will update her on their successful trip to the states last summer and their special six day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, Ambition. The team from Galway were the first ever international students to participate in this program.


Speaking ahead of tonight’s function, Bernard Kirk, Director of The Galway Education Centre said, “ We are delighted to be bringing these young Aviators of the future to the flagship centre for science and technology in this country! It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to meet with Daraine Mulvihill and it is so important for them to be recognised for this huge international achievement”.

Mr Kirk credits the innovation, dedication and international respect of teachers in Ireland, as playing a key role in the success of this project. Kate Murray, a principal of a small rural school in Clontuskert, County Galway spoke of her involvement; “For the pupils at Clontuskert National School to get an opportunity like this is life changing. This project is a classic example of how dreams can be brought to reality to the benefit of our young people in the STEAM subjects”.

The National Flight Academy is a subsidiary of The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in the United States. The Galway Education Centre have for some time also been running programmes such as FIRST LEGO League and The CREST Awards here in Ireland in an effort to also recognise and reward excellence in these important STEAM subjects for Irish Students.


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.

My NFA experience by Ruaidhrí Bleeker

Upon my arrival in Florida, initially, it was not the stone splitting heat, nor it’s accompaniment of sultry, sticky humidity that was most apparent; it was the warm welcome we received. After an exciting eight hour Delta flight to Atlanta, followed by another hour further south toward the equator to Pensacola, it was a welcome reward to be met with southern hospitality, as we were bleary eyed, jet lagged, and in need of a “ time out”. The people we encountered, and the welcome we got, were phenomenal to say the least. Once we had arrived in the NFA, we were delighted to be invited to the mess deck, to enjoy some pizza, before we retired to our staterooms, gradually readjusting to the adverse time difference. The immensely warm welcome we received that first evening, injubitably, was one of our trip’s more memorable chapters. The following afternoon, at the beach, we were reminded of America’s reputation of being an incredibly friendly country; rather than revelling in the incessant heat of Florida’s climate, it was the people we met, our chiefs, and all of the NFA’s staff who welcomed us so heartily to the U.S. that made our excursion so memorable.

The initial sun soaking, obviously, was only a morsel of what was to come for the group. Our presence on that transatlantic Delta flight was solely to attend the NFA, in order to further our knowledge in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths; perhaps the subjects considered most difficult among today’s students. And what better place could there be to imbibe, than the International Flight Academy. It offered me the chance to experience some of the most authentic and representational flight simulators in existence. In my opinion, there is no better method to learn something, than to immerse oneself into the topic, and to experience it physically and firsthand. The NFA gave the group the honour to be the first international students to do so. This was an ideal opportunity for the group to augment our knowledge concerning STEM. The NFA allowed us to learn about STEM in a genuinely enjoyable way.

Students often complain that, when learning in a drab, prosaic atmosphere, what goes in one ear, comes out the other as soon as it is needed for an exam. Aboard Ambition, we were educated in such an entertaining, yet informative fashion, that the wealth of new knowledge we acquired there will stay with us, while also imbuing in us an interest in the subjects associated with STEM. The NFA offers an incredibly effective method of instilling a vast interest and indelible knowledge in the minds of youths which would not have otherwise been realised. In hindsight of my experience on Ambition, I can honestly say that it did not contain a dull moment.

I shall be brief as I mention my own personal experience; I was indeed one of four to appear on America’s ABC news – This was an extraordinary experience but it was to be seconded. I was interviewed a second time for the NFA’s own PR requirements. To finish an unexpectedly high profile week, I was elected as AXP of the week, and gave an impromptu speech at our graduation; the experience which was a heady mix of terror and shock at the number of people present, but mostly excitement and appreciation.

Between the systematic excitement of our daily routine, there was always time to meet new people, and of course, room for a little evening entertainment during our dinner. Whoever presented the tidiest stateroom would receive their dinner first. This was, on one occasion our own room. The evening entertainment consisted of renditions of popular songs, performed by AXPs who had lost their possessions, and were trying to earn them back. My own squadron even subjected Ambition to Rick Astley’s “Never gonna give you up”. It wasn’t long until all 108 AXPs had joined in. Aside from the flight simulators, the hours in the JIC and the time spent in the JOC, it was moments like that that completed the NFA experience aboard Ambition, making our time a well rounded and rich mixture of meeting new personalities, enjoying ourselves and becoming more savvy as regards STEM. The mixture of an academic atmosphere anywhere but the dinner table, and the fun we had everywhere, was essential to the NFA’s ability to educate, and to emphasise the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, without ever seeming tiresome.

As I remember what I have learned during my stay on Ambition, I must recollect what an immersive experience the NFA was, and the lasting impression it has left on me. Everything we did aboard Ambition; the missions we completed while in the flight simulators especially, were based on the premise of realistic situations, signifying the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in reality, and accentuating that each must co-exist for everything to work as they do. This was one of the most important facts the group and I learned aboard Ambition – the consequence compelling us to want to learn more while we could during our stay with the NFA.

To summarise an unforgettable week, my experience with the NFA was entirely positive, and it could probably be isolated as the few days, along with the weeks leading up to the Junior Certificate examination, of my life so far where my learning has been accelerated the most. The interest I gained in the STEM subjects over the period I spent on Ambition would be simply impossible to replicate in school.

I would like to thank the Galway Education Centre for giving me the opportunity to go to the NFA. I would also like to thank the NFA and all aboard Ambition for a very memorable week, and instilling in me an appreciation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths which will last me a lifetime.
-Ruaidhrí Bleeker

An adventure in Pensacola,Florida by Shania Cunningham

On August 3rd a big adventure started for twelve Irish Ambassadors; from the time we took off in Ireland to the time we landed in Ireland nine days later it was all Go! Go! Go!
The first day at the (NFA) National Flight Academy (which was renamed the International Flight Academy for us) we went to Pensacola beach to have great fun and enjoy the sun! After the beach we went to do a little shopping and then RTB’ d for the evening to chill out. Sunday we got to meet our room mates and make some new friends and found out what squadron we would be in for the week. We also were taken on a small tour of Ambition. Monday morning, everyone was up at 06:30 with breakfast at 07:30 and at 08:00 we got to practise planning missions and also had some time to practice our flying skills on the simulators. We learned how to fly our assigned Triad for our missions during the week. When we were flying we had a flight buddy; my buddy was an American girl called Brianna who was really nice. The rest of the week was hectic; planning missions in the J.I.C, controlling triads from the J.O.C and flying some of our big missions in the simulators. Here are just some of the missions we flew during the week : The Tampa Air Rally, day and night heats, ship rescues, time trials and much more. During the week we also got to do some fun things outside Ambition. We visited the National Aviation Museum and while we were there we saw The Magic Of Flight in the IMAX theatre. We visited the Rescue Swimmer school, Air Traffic Control and the Blue Angels show. It was so cool
Who would have thought S.T.E.M is so much fun…It was a mind blowing experience.!! 🙂
Shania Cunningham. 🙂

A list of firsts from my time at the National Flight Academy, Pensacola, Florida by Mia Doolin

Parentless for the first time:

August 4th was the day I left Ireland behind me, and began my adventure to the States. The whole challenge had been facing me all summer, and I must admit the prospect of being parentless in Pensacola was quite a daunting one. I would soon learn that the majority of those who attend the National Flight Academy suffer less from loss than their parents!

First time in the States:
We spent two days traveling to Florida. We flew Dublin to Atlanta and had a six hour stop over there, a good opportunity to spend our first few dollars, before boarding our flight to Pensacola. The U.S. was so alien and new to me – nothing like back home.

First experience of the incredible Southern hospitality:
Cheers and banners greeted us at Pensacola airport. Needless to say all twelve of us lucky participants were exhausted. I remember feeling quite self -conscious as the camera flashes started to go off, but the warmth and kindness of the staff of the NFA made the welcome incredibly enjoyable.

My first flight:
We attended the academy from 6 am to 10 pm each of the six days we stayed there. A wonderful breakfast of waffles and fruit was followed by an intensive day of – well- learning to fly. I can still remember my first disastrous flight. I nose-dived into the runway and flew through the air traffic control tower, before plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll be glad to hear we weren’t flying real planes. They were state of the art simulators that gave you an incredibly realistic experience of flight, without running the risk of disaster. But before you could fly, you had to plan your route in the Joint Intelligence Center (JIC), on the amazing smart boards and computers. As well as flying, I spent some time in Air Traffic Control, patrolling the airspace making sure nobody tried to break the sound barrier over land. We would speak with the pilots over microphones and give them permission to take off, land etc. I really do love telling people what to do, so I must say the Air Traffic Control was a highlight for me. Other highlights include broadcasting Rick Astley over the microphones to other pilots as well as giving permission for barrel rolls.

My first air show:
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the famous Blue Angels acrobatic pilots preform on the airstrip just down the road from the Academy. Watching them was exhilarating, and they were fantastic. I really learned to appreciate the skills it took to achieve that kind of performance at my time in the Academy. The only part I didn’t like was when one of the Angels came out of nowhere, and flew roaring over my head. I thought it was the signaling of WWIII and, much to everyone’s amusement, screamed and dived onto the ground.
My time in the NFA was truly unforgettable. I appeared on NBC news Pensacola and ate my fill of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Who could ask for more? The Galway Education Center and the National Flight Academy have given me an experience that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life. The intention is for this program to continue, and I cannot recommend the experience enough to you. Thank you also to Ms. Hickey who notified Kate and I of the program. It was a fantastic experience that I will always remember.

National Flight Academy by Kevin McAndrew

National Flight Academy
From the minute we left the plane I felt at home in Pensacola. The staff were waiting for us at the airport and I knew that I was going to have a good time there. As we walked outside the weather felt very alien to us, the hot humid air was as if we were right beside a fire. We soon found though that the National Flight Academy was indeed air conditioned.
When we reached the National Flight Academy we realised that it was much bigger than we had originally thought it would be. The National Naval Aviation Museum was housed beside it and was an amazing sight to see. The first thing we did when we went inside was get our badges and we were shown to our rooms. The rooms were plain and empty but we soon started to fill it with our clothes and belongings in a couple of minutes. We began to make our beds and instead of feeling a hard bunk bed instead we felt a nice soft bed. We then went to the mess deck to get an experience of American Pizza. Lastly we explored the Ambition CVT-11 for a while longer until it was lights out. I had a good night’s sleep after travelling almost 24 hours.
The next morning we woke up refreshed and scurried down to the mess deck. We had lovely food getting us ready for the day’s big adventure. We hopped in the vans and were driven across Pensacola and brought to the BEACH! At the beach the sand was bone white and as hot as a stove. There luckily was a pool beside it where we could cool down though. As we entered the sea water we went out to where the water was about chest level. We looked down into the water and amazingly see the bottom (unlike Ireland!) We saw lots of different things including hermit crabs and sand dollars. I thought I had no sunburn but when we got back it turned out that I had been mistaken, from my elbows to the top of my back I was badly sunburnt. But when we went to sleep I was not disturbed by it that much. It was our day to write on the blog and we didn’t find it too hard to do since we had such an exciting day. When we got back we met the first people apart from ourselves to come aboard Ambition; Trenton and Michael.
On Sunday was when everyone arrived. Ninety four others piled on board Ambition with the ship able to hold everyone easily. We met people that came from all around America to come and see the Ambition. At 1400 everyone reported to the mess deck where the Captain gave a speech and us our Chiefs. I was part of Wolfpack so we had Chief King. He told us a little about himself and then we went straight up to the ready room. When we reached the ready room we had a small bit of free time so we all got our call-signs; Giggles, Sparkey, Atom, Chatterbox, Google, Mickey D’s, Theory, Smiles, Fountain, Wada boy, Einstein and mine; Tech. Some of the callsigns changed like Google to Burner after burning all of her fuel because of the afterburner, Chatterbox to Psycho after all the murderous stories she told and Wada Boy to Masseuse because he randomly started massaging the table.
On Monday we were well into the program and we started on proper missions working with other Squadrons in our Cag such as Chargers and Lancers. We saw the museum and saw many interesting things especially the iMax theatre and we got to see a brilliant movie called the Magic of Flight. Just after we went out of the museum I realised that my card was missing so we went all the way back searching for my card until we realised that it wasn’t there. Later on we found it in the ready room which was strange because we hadn’t been there all morning.
On Wednesday we went out to see the Blue Angels practice and they put on a great show. I was hoping that we’d meet them after their performance but unfortunately we did not!*sobs* When we went back in we planned out formation flying and said, sure this is simple after seeing the Chargers doing it though our hopes were fizzled out. After the Chargers we stepped up and we took a go at it. A few planes got lost as we approached Destin airport and lined up to the runway. Eventually we had to leave after waiting too long so 3 of our six planes including us went for it performing the move perfectly until we were told that we were out of time.
On Thursday we went to visit the Swimming school where they taught people to save others in danger. They explained everything and showed us all of the facility. When we got back we found out that there was a great disaster; the Gulf Sunset collided with the Tropicale cruise ship. Ambition was on alert and we took to our stations. We had to deliver pumps and drop W.A.S.P.s to the collision site to put out the fires and the water. We took recon and figured out that the Gulf Sunset was from the Bahamas. The other thing we found was that the chemicals that were in the water were highly dangerous. The Gulf Sunset later blew to pieces and the cruise ship went down but everyone was saved in the end.
On Friday we had graduation and Ruadhrí made a great speech. Everyone watched as we all received our wings. After the graduation the Admiral gave us a three star admiral challenge coin. We were delighted to graduate and celebrated by going to the mall. I got a few souvenirs for my family.
Afterwards we came back to Ireland delighted to see our families again but we’ll never leave the knowledge we learnt behind and we’ll never leave the friends we made behind!
Kevin McAndrew

National Flight Academy by Kate Kelly

National Flight Academy
Pensacola, Florida

When I first found out about the project in Pensacola and the fact I had a chance to go there – I couldn’t believe it. But when I was told that I was one of the people going – I almost didn’t believe it. It seemed too good to be true! I now have been there and back and it still seems like a dream.
Waking up early in the morning is usually a big problem for me, but when we were told that the day started at 6:30 am, surprisingly, I didn’t really mind. The morning we were leaving, I was up before the rest of the house (excitement hadn’t let me sleep anyway!) It never really hit me – (how far away I was going and how amazing it would be) – until I was over American soil.
When we reached Pensacola airport we got a lovely welcome from the people who ran Ambition. The humidity was unbelievable, I never really got used to it but thankfully every building had great air conditioning.
When we arrived at the NFA, they gave us cards to unlock the door to our rooms – like in a hotel. We all had our own card with our names on it. Then we had a chance to shower and unpack. The girls were divided into two rooms and the boys were all in the one room. Once we did all of that we were called down to the main hall – the food hall, which they called the mess deck, and we had a feed of pizza. When we finished eating pizza we went to the game room. There, you could play air hockey, Xbox, Playstation or cards. Soon after, we all were more than willing to go to bed.

On Saturday we went to the Holiday Inn Resort. There was an outdoor swimming pool there and then a little wooden bridge leading to the beach. The bridge was so hot from the sun, when you were going back and forth between the two, you would have to run across or else you would burn your feet! The sand was hot as well so you needed to find a spot of shade quickly! The ocean was perfect – 28 degrees! We spent most of the day at the beach and then they brought us shopping for around two hours and afterwards we went back to Ambition.

The next day was when all of the Americans started to arrive. Once everyone had settled in the Captain called us all down to the mess deck to tell us the rules that applied while we were staying there. One of the things we had to do was to make sure our beds were made and our rooms were clean and tidy because that decided theb order of who would eat first of all the 108 AXPs. An untidy room meant bringing up the rear. Our room got us to second in the queue on one occasion and we never ended up last!

The days from Monday – Thursday were great. We were brought to a museum, where we saw lots of different models of planes, a Rescue Swimmer School, where we saw how the future rescue swimmers train and they brought us to the IMax theatre where we saw a 40-minute-documentary about the Blue Angels and the day after we were brought to see them perform a practice show! They were really good!

When we were on Ambition, flying the triads we were invited to take part in the Tampa Air Rally to do missions and sometimes we were given a case like a ship collision and we would have to do certain things like pick up people in the water and, if there was a fire, drop water. Whatever we did on the Triads would be about 40 minutes long. But before we flew, we planned.
In order to plan our flights we had to go to the JIC, (Joint Intelligence Centre). There, we used Google Earth to measure the distance we had to travel. Then we had to decide how fast we would travel so we could calculate the fuel requirement, how much we would burn per minute and how much we would need overall.
When we were controlling the planes we went to the JOC (Joint Operations Centre) where we had to wear a headset in order to be in contact with the people in the Triads and make sure among other they were heading in the right direction.

So the week was brilliant! On Friday we graduated in the museum at 10:00 in the morning. The American students were all gone by noon. We made lots of new friends there. The Americans were very amused by our Irish accents!
At around 01:30 in the afternoon we went shopping again for a few hours and then we went to a baseball game and watched Pensacola’s local team, The Blue Wahoo’s, play. The game was about three hours long and it was really good.
The day after that was our last day in Pensacola, Florida. 

Pensacola Airport was really quiet and we passed through security easily enough and thankfully our stop over in Atlanta wasn’t as long as it was coming over. Before I knew, I was on the plane home.
No words could explain the tiredness I felt in Dublin airport – I slept the rest of the day and was awake for the rest of the night!
But jet lag or not, I’m still incredibly grateful for my experience. After all, it’s not everyday you get to go to Florida to such an amazing facility where we had so many fantastic experiences! Thanks to everyone for making it a reality!

By Kate Kelly.

My Experience at the National Flight Academy by Kate Grealish

An Aviator is a person who is actively involved in the flight of an aircraft. For us as “Aviators of the Future” we spent the week linking Maths with fun using the STEM system (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The Aviator of the Future Programme gives students a chance to explore the world of education. Education is an adventure that we all discover during our lives. Many people receive a chill of excitement when calculating a maths problem, people get a thrill when creating new technology, others may enjoy experimenting with different chemicals, I for one feel quite ecstatic when reading a book based on natural history. So you see anything that involves learning or finding out something new always attracts a little something in the mind of an individual. It quite excites the brain to extract new information and when you read or write it, it sticks to the brain forever. We “Aviators of the Future” are fortunate enough to have already experienced this feeling of triumph, whether it be on your first day of school, or daily while reading your favourite book. I most certainly experienced it when in America and I am sure everyone returned home with more knowledge for their brain to absorb.

My journey began the moment I found out that I would be one of the twelve picked to journey to America to experience an opportunity of a lifetime and to have NFA (National Flight Academy) as a temporary home. When my parents told me, my whole family were thrilled to hear that I’d be following the family tradition of maths and science. I attended several meetings in which all the Aviators of the Future exchanged individual backgrounds and personal details. We learnt all about the Naval terms and acronyms and what the trip meant. I had looked up National Flight Academy on the internet and learned more of what we would be doing in the Pensacola. In preparation for the trip we were all vaccinated with the necessary vaccinations and made sure our passports would be valid for the next 6 months. We went on a trip to the Atlantic AirVenture in Shannon to try out the simulators, get used to flying and learn about the aerodynamic terms. As the day approached in which we’d be journeying to America, I became more and more excited and finally when the day arrived I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before.

As I stepped foot in Dublin Airport, 3rd of August, 2012. I was excited, actually come to that, ecstatic to be meeting my new friends and fellow AXPs before our flight to Atlanta. I am sure everyone was feeling slightly nervous as we gathered, chatting and wondering how our experience in America would go. We took a group photograph and the parents said their last goodbyes, perhaps wondering would their children miss them. I think I am right in saying that not one of us felt homesick, in fact I think we were all regretting leaving America and returning home to our normal lives.

As we checked in our baggage and were handed out our boarding cards, the sensation became real. We were travelling to AMERICA! It was an experience beyond our wildest dreams. As everyone milled about we handed our passports to Paddy and I was glad I didn’t have the responsibility of looking after my passport as my Father had told me earlier that morning; Your passport is your most important object you will have, so I was certainly most happy to hand it over! We walked in a group to a café in Terminal 2 and I’m sure we received many interested glances as our jackets read ‘Aviator of the Future’. I myself was talking to a woman who was very interested in what we would be doing in the States. We had a short snack, mainly a drink and croissant or muffin and headed out to board our flight DL177 to Atlanta.

The flight was 8 hours long to Atlanta and then a short hop to Pensacola. The weather couldn’t have been more different than the weather in Ireland. It changed from being cold, rainy and dreary to a sunny, humid climate. We were staying in the Naval Base located in Pensacola, Florida. We were settled in nicely and once the American AXPs (Ambition eXperimental Pilots) arrived, we were all set to take off from Ambition. My first impression on the American AXPs was that they were all extremely interested in their international comrades. They seemed to know so little about Ireland, but I am sure that at the end of the week, they must have learnt plenty about the country including some Irish lingo.

Ambition is a Naval aircraft carrier located in the Gulf of Mexico. Our mission was to fly the experimental aircraft, the Triad X12. The Triad X12s are configured to fly as fast as an FA-18, hover and set down like a helicopter and drive like an all-terrain vehicle.

On a typical day, we would wake up to a horn sound at around 06:30. We would have a shower in the fantastic bathroom facilities and get dressed and head down to the mess deck (food hall). Usually there would be some type of Americanised breakfast such as breakfast burritos or pancakes with bacon. It seemed like an American diner! The squadrons would eat with their chief, discussing the events of that day. Occasionally in the morning the AXPs would be brought on a trip; for example the Naval Aviation Museum, the Aircraft Control Tower or a chance to see the Blue Angels do aerobatic formations! We would then be briefed on the days’ action-packed mission and come together to create a master-plan, flight map and fly in the fantastic simulators. Each mission would text the AXP’s mental agility, preparedness and communication skills, including their ability to fly and ability to handle whatever comes unexpectedly. There would be lunch at 14:00 or earlier, depending on the events of the day. Each day would require a different mission and different requirements. Dinner would occur at around 18:00 and the line for the food would be decided according to each rooms’ cleanliness. AXPs who had lost their belongings would be required to entertain the entire audience of the mess deck in song or dance indicating a sense of fun. AXPs would be debriefed and allowed an hour of free-time before lights out. It would be an end to an extremely exciting and busy day!

Thinking back on the week, I realised that having Maths and Science applied to missions made me realise how exciting the subjects were and how they are used so regularly in everyday jobs. Also, thinking back on the start of the week, the Irish people were very conscious of how the Americans students were so different to us because they looked and sounded different. However, by the end of the week we discovered we had much more in common than we had realised before by the bonding we had during all of our adventures and we regretted leaving them and perhaps wondered would we ever meet again.

I feel very grateful for having had the opportunity to travel to Florida. It was a fantastic experience. Paddy Maeve and Kate, our mentors were terrific in organising the entire event and for minding us while we were so far from home and I really want to thank them for everything!