Major companies don't usually recruit high school students, but Aviation High School students are in high demand. When JetBlue hosted a group in Florida on Thursday, NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ, went along for the ride.
LAKELAND, FLA. - As a student at Aviation High School in Queens, Richard Kump knows a lot about planes. On Thursday morning, he got ready to ride one into the air for the first time.
"I feel terrified," he said. "I've been in Aviation for five years, and I've never been on a flight. I'm like the joke of school."
It was a big day of flying. Six students and a teacher from Aviation were invited by JetBlue to fly to Orlando and then take a 12-minute charter flight packed with other aviation students and JetBlue employees. They landed in Lakeland, Florida at an aviation expo called Sun 'n Fun.
"The purpose of today is to connect aviation education in New York with aviation education in Florida," said Bonny Simi, vice president of talent at JetBlue. "After all, JetBlue flies between those two cities."
When it comes to strong, established high school aviation programs, central Florida and Queens, New York are the nation's hubs.
At Aviation High School, students spend five years earning their diploma and the two licenses required to work as an airplane mechanic.
"I think of all the work that goes into putting that plane in the sky, all the inspections, all the sign-offs, every crew member that puts his signature on the paper for that aircraft," said Erick Alonzo, a student at Aviation High School in Queens.
"When we were coming down on the airplane, they wanted to sit on the wing to actually look at the wing as it operates in flight so they can actually see what we actually talk about in school, flaps moving, thrust reversers moving," said Anthony Colucci, a teacher at Aviation High School.
There were a lot of planes to inspect once on the ground in Lakeland. But connecting with other high school students and learning about private jets, stunt planes and bird strikes were not the only purpose of the trip.
"Knowing people from JetBlue is a really big opportunity of getting internships, jobs," said Rebecca Petraglia, a student at Aviation High School.
JetBlue said it hopes to get many of the students back on board soon, as employees.
"We actually have jobs," Simi said. "We hire on average, about [2,000] to 3,000 crew members a year, and we're constantly looking for people who have that sparkle in their eye about aviation."
People like Richard, who now can both fix a plane and describe what it's like to fly in one.