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Delta grant boosts aviation academy flight capabilities

Hilary Farrell

A $150,000 Delta Air Lines Foundation grant helps double student flight capacity at the West Michigan Aviation Academy.

Jaxyn Ryks is a senior at the Grand Rapids academy.

“I’d grown up around aviation; my father is heavily involved in the aviation industry. He’s also a pilot," he says. "The aviation sector has always felt like home to me."

Ryks is one of about 600 students at the public school, who train for any number of flight-related careers in addition to the usual high school curriculum. 

The Delta Air Lines Foundation grant purchases a four-seat Cessna 172 as the school's second training plane.

Credit Hilary Farrell
A Cessna 172 joins the West Michigan Aviation Academy for student flight training.

“You know, these are the type of young people that you hope will go into aviation as a career,” Andrea Newman, Delta’s senior vice president of governmental affairs, says. 

“It’s an amazing school, and these kids are the future of our industry," Newman continues. "[W]hen you see it, and you meet the kids and you spend some time in the classrooms, and you look at what they’re doing here, you can’t help but want to be a part of it.” 

The academy was founded five years ago by Dick and Betsy DeVos, with an inaugural class of about 80 students.

Dick DeVos says the goal is to encourage passion in students with hands-on learning experiences. In short, he says - get more students in the air. 

Ryks says that passion is part of why he chose to attend WMAA.

He plans to pursue a career in either aviation business or flight.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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