The first time Dennys To stepped onto a plane, it was to man the cockpit.
That may sound like a perilous undertaking, but it's just an average day for students at Westminster College's aviation summer camp. The program offers teens a chance to learn more about aviation and college life and to help them make career and education choices.
The experience was an exhilarating one for To, of West Valley City.
"Being up in the air is completely different. You see things from a new perspective," To said. "You're up in the sky, with nothing else but the world to see."
That world-expanding view is just what officials are hoping campers experience, said Emily Johnson, Westminster's summer camp coordinator. The program allows students to live for a week on the Salt Lake City campus, 1840 S. 1300 East, to get a taste of college life while participating in activities that give them inspiration for future careers. Students in aviation camp make barometers, learn how to navigate and visit airports and museums.
To says he enjoys flying, but sees it more as a future hobby than a career. That's not the case for Nicolle Huang, who made his second trip to camp from Los Angeles. The 17-year-old is determined to be a pilot and has Westminster's program at the top of his list. Huang's parents would rather see him be a doctor, believing the job prospects are better, but Huang believes there will be plenty of openings once he has logged enough flight hours to pilot on his own.
Students like Huang are in the majority, said flight instructor Jeremy Webster.
"For the most part, they know what they want to do," he said. "They've been looking for opportunities."
Webster has logged thousands of hours teaching newbies how to pilot, and still enjoys seeing students tip the plane 180 degrees with a death grip on the craft's yolk before realizing they can correct the problem. When it comes to flying, learning by doing is the best method, Webster said.
Katie Whiting, 15, is planning on a career in aviation after piloting her first flight from Salt Lake City to Nephi. The Park City teen is considering joining an ROTC program so she can learn to fly. Her summary of flying is shared by all of the teens in aviation camp:
"It's totally awesome."
Camping out at college
o Westminster College hosts aviation, creative writing and personal finance camps each summer. Tuition varies by camp, and includes room and board, transportation and activities. Scholarships are available based on financial need.
For more information, or to register for next year's camps, visit http://www.westminstercollege.edu/cec.