Wichita Public Schools, WSU Tech and Textron Aviation to partner with aviation industry and Kansas State Department of Education to launch Aviation Pathway

Aviation Pathway Logo

Program to create new aviation industry options for high school students.


WICHITA, Kan. –  Aviation Pathway, a new proposed high school aviation curriculum, was announced today by Wichita Public Schools and WSU Tech at the Textron Aviation Citation Longitude line. If approved, it would be the state’s first aviation technical education pathway.

Through the program high school students would have the opportunity to receive their high school diploma and technical certificate at graduation creating the potential for immediate employment within the aviation industry.

Aviation Pathway Concept

“A few months ago, Textron Aviation brought a high school concept to us and WSU Tech that we immediately began to explore because of its potential benefit to our students, the aviation industry and our community,” said Alicia Thompson, Wichita Public Schools Superintendent.

“We ended up exploring different directions and are excited about this program. We can’t wait to show students and their parents what they will learn and do in this new program focused on today’s high-tech, fast-paced aviation industry and world.”

After additional input from the aviation industry, and if approved by the Kansas Board of Education this summer, Wichita Public Schools plan to launch the program this coming year in four Wichita public high schools: North, Northwest, Southeast and West high schools.

“We applaud the leadership of Wichita Public Schools and WSU Tech along with the interest and support of the Kansas State Department of Education,” said Jim Walters, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Textron Aviation. “It was just months ago we visited a potential model in another state. With educators and business working together, this new program will match industry needs and students with knowledge and career opportunities.

Walters added, “We have been impressed with how responsive and thoughtful Wichita Public Schools and WSU Tech have been. They have accomplished in weeks and months what could require years.”

As outlined now, the Aviation Pathway program would feature two distinct paths – Aviation Production and Aviation Maintenance. Wichita Public Schools developed the curriculum based on industry input in partnership with WSU Tech.

“This is a game changer,” said Sheree Utash, WSU Tech President comments. “This will change students’ lives and our collective aviation industry and it will help our community grow. As educators we were able to quickly and smartly respond because of the investment of time, energy and resources so many partners have made over the last decade. Together we are developing the next generation of highly skilled employees.”

Proposed Program Outline and Process

The proposal has students taking classes at both the student’s home high school and at WSU Tech’s National Center for Aviation Training campus. With the plan students would also shadow or complete internships with employers during their final year.

As outlined now, students would have options of sub-sections within Aviation Production and Aviation Maintenance.

Aviation Production – Students would study topics such as aerostructures, composites and mass production principles.

Aviation Production: CATIA – Students would learn many of the same principles plus CATIA, a computer-aided engineering design program widely used in aviation.

Aviation Maintenance: Avionics – Students would study topics such as electronics, microprocessors, integrated circuits and drones.

Aviation Maintenance: Aviation Engine – In this subsection topics could include hydraulics and pneumatics and aviation engine performance.

The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) has 16 career and technical education pathways. If approved, this program would create the first aviation pathway in Kansas. The next step includes industry input to a proposed curriculum.

“Working with the aviation industry, we’ve developed curriculum that we are using as our starting point for this program,” Utash said. “We are excited to work with the Wichita Public School team and our aviation partners to fully develop this for high school students.”

Wichita Public Schools plan to present Aviation Pathway this summer for KSDE career and technical education approval.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson said, “Working with industry leaders like Textron Aviation is part of our overall vision for Kansas education. Bringing together Kansas schools and businesses supports our efforts to help students explore career opportunities they may have never thought of. Not every career requires a four-year plan of study. It’s important that our students understand their options.

Full implementation is expected for the 2019-2020 school year. The program would also be available for other districts.

Industry Need

It is expected that thousands of jobs in advanced aviation manufacturing will be available in Kansas during the next five years, especially with increased production as the number of employees eligible to retire continues to increase.

Additional factors that contribute to an urgent need for skilled employees include a low unemployment rate, competition for skilled workforce and fewer youth choosing manufacturing careers.

“Aviation Pathway is an important part of a comprehensive effort to inspire our youth to explore careers in advanced manufacturing,” Walters said. “It’s well known that the employees in our region have world-class technical expertise. Aviation Pathway will help ensure that continues for years to come in our region and throughout our state.”

Student and Parent Information

According to Thompson, students or their parents interested in exploring the proposed Aviation Pathway should contact their home high school counselor for more information, or contact Jim Means, WPS Director of Career and Technical Education, at (316) 973-4644.

“We are excited to introduce our students and their parents to today’s world of advanced aviation manufacturing,” Thompson said. “This is an excellent career option that requires great skill and knowledge and will open up many doors.”