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Aviation Club hopes to soar at competition

KINGSTON — The students in Kingston Junior High School’s “Black Skunks” Aviators’ Club come from different grades, have different favorite school subjects and bring different talents to their chosen after-school activity.

But the common thread that binds them all together — and has each week all year — is a love for flying.

“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot,” said KJH seventh grader and Black Skunks first officer Sam Shoemaker. “I love seeing things from a higher perspective and I like the feeling of it.”

Each of the competing members of the club echoed Shoemaker’s feelings towards all things with wings.

“I really like being up in the air and off the ground,” said, J’riah Guerrero, ninth grader and captain of the Black Skunks. “Nobody can tell you what to do in the air.”

The team’s passion for flying will culminate today with a competition at Seattle’s Museum of Flight that pits them against six other area schools and will test everything from their knowledge of flight to their abilities to pilot a plane.

What will determine its success is how well the club can gel together, said Black Skunks flight leader and KJH advisor Linda Golden. But the club’s ability to mesh well is strong, she added.

“The key has been the teamwork and learning to work together,” Golden commented. “Putting all of their energy into one common goal and wanting to achieve in that goal.”

A panel of judges determines the winner of the six teams competing, using a points system in each of the five competitions. The team that is able to impress the judges the most will be offered the chance to go to Osh Kosh, Wis. in July for a national round of competition.

The first competition — “log book” — will be completed before the team ever leaves Kingston. The Skunks will be judged on a team creed and patch they’ve created against the other teams.

“Flight plan” then tests each team to follow a predetermined course and use Microsoft Flight Simulator to carry out the plan. Given every detail of the flight — down to wind speed and barometric pressure — the students must figure out their starting position using coordinates and fly to where they’ll end up within 30 minutes.

“We have to race (the other team) and have everything down right,” said Black Skunks team member Jake Haynes. “It’s very challenging.”

A chance to test their knowledge, “check ride,” comes next as the KJH students face off against the other schools in the competition in a quiz show-type format. “Runway” sees each team perform a skit that demonstrates knowledge they’ve learned on the flight craft of their choice. “Free flight” rounds out the competition with each team constructing a rubber band-wound glider that will be tested before the judges.

The Blue Wonders Program was created by Ford Motor Company and the Experimental Aircraft Foundation. Kingston Junior High School has been competing in the competition since 1999 and earned a trip to Osh Kosh in 2000 after winning the Seattle Regional competition.

The KJH aviators have had some outside professional help. Greg Wright, an Alaska Airlines pilot, and Chuck Gresham, a retired Alaska Air pilot, have been helping the team prepare for today’s competition.

The Skunks have been practicing nearly every day since April to prepare for the competition and although the team is working hard, the Black Skunks know how to keep things jovial, said ninth grade navigator Teriy Narimatsu.

“Sometimes we can get out of hand but for the most part, it’s really fun,” he said.

Winning the competition today will earn the team its first trip to Osh Kosh in four years, a prospect each team member is excited about.

“I’m a really competitive person — it’s going to be lots of fun to compete,” First Officer Shoemaker said. “If we won, I’d really look forward to going to Osh Kosh.”

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