For Niwot freshman Francis Bunting, flying isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifelong passion. So when he learned that his new school didn’t have an Aviation Club, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“My dad is a United pilot, and my grandfather before him was an Air Force pilot, so it runs in the blood,” he said. “I wanted to involve other kids who are passionate about the same thing. So, as soon as school started, I went to my math teacher, Ms. Rickley, and got a sponsor.”
Bunting recruited a friend from middle school and launched his club, without quite knowing what to expect. However, it quickly became apparent that Niwot was home to several like-minded aviation fans. He started holding meetings on alternate Mondays, and the group soon blossomed to 12 members, many of them upperclassmen.
“It’s been pretty successful so far,” he said. “Obviously, based on the number of members we have, there was quite a bit of interest in that type of thing, just not an opportunity.”
Bunting said the club is geared toward both hobbyists and those hoping to make their living in aviation. Their first semester schedule included a wide range of activities, from modeling and drone flying, to guest speakers from the Navy, Buckley Air Base, and the Air Force Academy. They also took a number of field trips, including a very special one to close out the year.
“We were invited to tour the training center at United, and that was a big deal for us, because usually they only give tours to college level kids,” Bunting said. “We got all the kids in the simulator, an exact replica of the cockpit, full motion and all of that.”
The club also provides tools and training for members working towards their pilot’s license, as well as career counseling. Two members are currently licensed, though that’s not everyone’s goal, Bunting acknowledged.
There’s really a lot of different things you can do in aviation, not just be a pilot,” he said. “We have one kid who’s very interested in weather—hurricane hunters and that sort of stuff—and some kids who are very interested in the photography aspect.”
Bunting and the Aviation club are looking ahead to a busy second semester. They will be orienting at least four new members right off the bat, boosting membership by a third. They are also hoping to schedule an outing to the Wings over the Rockies Air Museum, located on the former Lowry Air Force Base. Bunting said the growing club will also be increasing its presence at Longmont’s Vance Brand airport, and may eventually hold their regular meetings there.
Additionally, Bunting said the club will be attending to more prosaic chores, such as membership drives and fundraising, which will help underwrite some of the club’s longer term projects. An in-school flight simulator isn’t going to pay for itself, after all.
“We’re either going to do some sort of bake sale at Niwot, or something aviation related,” Bunting said. “Maybe set up a booth at a school event and let people fly drones for a donation.”
For more information about the Niwot Aviation Club, visit their website. The club will be discussing simulators at the next meeting, on Monday, Jan. 7 at 2:45pm in Ms. Rickley’s room.