Joey Feaster flies the Cessna 182 aircraft with the help of the ATC-610 flight simulator.
By Chuck Lambert
Recently in the Elm Grove Middle School gym, crowded with parents, grandparents, and friends, I watched my grandson and 59 other eighth graders walk into the Bossier Parish Flight Simulator Hall of Fame. The 60 kids were being honored for achieving an average score of 97 percent or better on their classroom and hands-on flight training in the ATC-610 Flight Simulator, which actually allows the students to learn to fly aircraft such as the Cessna-172 and many others. Under the leadership of MSgt Brett M. Barrow (USAF, retired), all of the parish's eighth grade students can undergo the training. At the end of the training, they are given a written test and a hands-on flight test.
Many of the parents, friends, and even some of the grandparents present had been among the more than 49,000 students who have completed the course, now in its 46th year.
In 1968, the Bossier Parish School Board purchased a Curtis Wright Dehmel P3A Flight Trainer from the USAF. Retired to the Global Strike Air Force Museum in 1984, the P3A simulates the WWII B-25 Mitchell bomber. Three computer-controlled ATC-610s were purchased in 1984, and six more came on line in all of Bossier Parish's Middle Schools in 2013.
Until 2013, the simulators were moved from school to school in a large (50'X12") trailer, but in 2013 the funds required to transport the trailer were redirected toward the purchase of the six additional simulators. The trailer was retired to serve as an auxiliary classroom at Benton Middle School.
LTCOL Ray Christie (USAF, retired) was the first instructor, serving from 1968 to 1979; followed by CMSgt. Jim Blackburn (USAF, retired), 1980-1987; and SMSgt. Martin D. Bourgeois, Jr. (USAF, retired), 1987-2007. MSgt. Barrow has held the post since 2007.
The Aerospace Flight Simulator Program is under the supervision and administration of Elm Grove Middle School, whose principal is Ross Boyett.
Programs such as this play a large part in Bossier Parish Schools' achieving that most important educational objective -- parental participation. The success of the Flight Simulator program to that end was exemplified by the packed gym at the Elm Grove ceremony.