Orlando pilot gives students hands-on aviation experience

Camp teaches covers personal development, STEM skills

ORLANDO, Fla. – Pilot Mike McKenzie feels most at home on the flight line at Orlando Executive Airport. 

“I just get, you know, goosebumps when I think about this stuff. I could stay here all day,” McKenzie said.

Inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, McKenzie founded Vision of Flight, a nonprofit, where students as young as 12 who might not normally be exposed to aviation get hands-on experience.

“I just saw youth becoming more bored with school and the status quo,” McKenzie said. 

Vision of Flight covers all aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. This summer, the camp was offered at Walker Middle School.

“You have to have respect. You have to be disciplined. You have to constantly think about things that are happening around you, situational awareness,” McKenzie said.

Ryan Dewitt is a Vision of Flight mentor and pilot who sees much of his younger self in the youths who come through the program.

“I was the kid who always had to go up to the front of the plane to see the pilot,” Dewitt said. “So when I have kids at work who are interested in aviation like here at the camp, it really excites me to be able to show these guys what I do, because they have the same fire and ambition to be a pilot that I had as a kid."

Ethan Smith, a 13-year-old program participant, said he's been enjoying his time at Vision of Flight so far.

“We learn to teach each other and help each other and learn to grown,” Smith said.

McKenzie said he hopes attendees will apply the personal development skills they learn to their lives outside of camp.

"We look at bringing kids together, every walk of life, in this environment and making them realize we're all just people and it's important they learn to work together,” McKenzie said. “It makes better people.”

For more information about Vision of Flight, click here.

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