STEM flight

Student Ashley Sittinger works with her pilot mentor as part of the STEM Flights program.

WINCHESTER — STEM Flights, a Virginia-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, has chosen Winchester Regional Airport as headquarters for its Cessna 172 aircraft.

STEM Flights partners with public schools and other educational organizations to provide no-cost flights to selected young adults. The group’s mission is to create a positive aviation experience and inspire students to pursue careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

Carley Walker, director of development for STEM Flights, said on Wednesday that the organization is fully operational locally. It uses existing hangar space at 509 Airport Road and has its own office. The organization is looking for pilot mentors to fly students.

A lease agreement between STEM Flights and the airport was executed on Jan. 6, according to Winchester Regional Airport Executive Director Nicholas Sabo. The monthly rent is $720.

Sabo said the arrangement is good for the airport and the community.

“One can draw a short line between sparking an interest in aviation at an early age and an enriching career in the industry,” he stated in a media release. “We are glad to have a group based here that promotes that very ideal.”

Students in grades 6-12 who have an interest in aviation or STEM can apply with their parents online to participate in STEM Flights.

The process from application to flight experience is typically a few weeks, Walker said.

Walker said her father, Dave Brubaker, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, founded STEM Flights in 2018, though he had been offering similar youth aviation experiences for 20 years prior to that. STEM Flights was originally headquartered in Tappahannock.

About 100 students have participated in the program since 2018 and about 20 pilots are involved. The organization is active in Winchester, Tappahannock and Leesburg. It also has participating pilots in Florida and Indiana, and there is hope for further expansion, Walker said. The organization is funded through donations and grant money.

For more information about STEM Flights, visit stemflights.org.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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