Putting at-risk kids in the pilot seat

Pacific West Aerospace Academy helping students find their purpose

By Marques Hunter on February 4, 2013

Ty Peterson cares about the youth, so much that he helped create the Pacific West Aerospace Academy, a non-profit organization aimed toward assisting in aviation and technical support.

The executive director and graduate of the United States Marine Corps, Peterson said the purpose of the academy is to seek out economically disadvantaged youths from the South Sound region.

"I felt it was necessary to assist and inspire a career path for men and women," Peterson said. "We want students to know that in an event that you don't fly, there are a multitude of jobs waiting for you.

The greatest benefit of the Pacific West Aerospace Academy - catered to those between the ages of 10-19 - is its financial relief; it's cost free. Major sponsors such as Boeing and The Museum of Flight offer classroom space, materials, books, flight training and more.

Students participate in the Academy for one year. So far, it has graduated more than 50 students. There are currently 15 being exposed to aviation three to four times a month for several hours.

The classes are held on Saturday to avoid any conflict between normal school hours. Peterson said much of the focus is on basic math, science and engineering. But it's not all about hitting the books.

The Academy takes the youths on field trips to the Coast Guard station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord or a Marine detachment, for example. The most recent trip was special, as youths met members of the Tuskegee Airmen at the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island.

There are a myriad of different kinds of training youths acquire while admitted in the Pacific West Aerospace Academy. The aircraft used in conjunction for training, to just name a couple, are the Cessna 152 and Cessna 172. A few of the military aircraft the aviation students receive orientation about and maximum exposure to are the A-18 Growler, F-15 Eagle and the A-10 Warthog.

If a young person is interested in gaining hand-on experience in the introduction to aviation and a military environment, then the Pacific West Aerospace Academy may be a good fit.

"I talked with so many kids and they had no idea what it took for an airplane to take off," Peterson said. "This is an avenue for people who desire the opportunity but don't have it."

If students are interested, they can download an application by visiting www.pacificwestaerospaceacademy.com or calling Peterson at 206.370.4223. Contributions and donations can be made to PO Box 5861, Kent, Washington, 98064.

Photo: Lt. Colonel Thomas O’Connell, Commander, 4th Airlift Squadron; Robert Branscomb, VP, Air Force Association; Lt. Colonel Edward Drummond, Tuskegee Airmen, WWII; Tayarji (Ty) Peterson, Executive Director (Pacific West Aerospace Academy) - Entertainment & Communications Director (Tuskegee Airmen), Seattle; Charle Young, former Seattle Seahawk (NFL).