Flying High!

eye on america model planes flight airplanes CBS

How many youngsters would be unhappy to see summer school come to an end? Not many.

But if you ask the kids attending the Institute for Educational Advancement in California, they'll tell you they don't want the session to end.

CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports it's a summer school with a difference, and the difference comes directly from the school's founder.

Paul MacCready is helping young minds take off and soar. On the day we visit, he’ll send a half-dozen teenagers into the sky, gliding on air currents over the California desert.

As the gliders ride the updrafts, MacCready hopes only that the young passengers are having a blast.

"It was amazing; so far in my life, that’s the most fun I've ever had," says one student.

The students come from across the United States. They are all at the top of their class—gifted students being given a gift: learning about flight from one of flying’s pioneers.

"I want them hooked on life and the future and nature and technology," says MacCready.

You might conclude from his past that MacCready is a man who has been hooked on life and technology.

In the '70s, MacCready built the Gossamer Condor, the first aircraft to fly on human power—a pilot pumping bicycle pedals.

In the '80s he designed Solar Challenger—a plane that flew across the English Channel powered only by the sun.

In the '90s MacCready's twin passions -- engineering and the environment -- inspired Helios, a huge solar powered flying wing. And the 74-year-old hasn’t stopped dreaming or innovating.

On the long list of experimental aircraft MacCready has developed is a fully operational camera-equipped spy plane. There are no worries about losing the pilot. The actual plane is palm sized. It flies by remote control.

Nothing teaches self-reliance and problem solving, he says, like flying a plane, even if it is a model.

So the students who joined MacCready this summer spend lots of time flying models.

Instead of putting the kids in the cockpit, the planes have tiny TV cameras.

The cameras beam back live pictures of the flights—a safe way to get a crash course.

MacCready isn’t trying to turn out pilots or aerospace engineers, but something more important: thinkers.

"If you can unleash the minds of kids and not only these kids but millions of --10's of millions of -- kids, then there’s a mighty good chance the world will work," MacCready says.

And now he's dreaming of solar powered gliders that could be sent to study Mars. He’s convinced that if the young can be inspired to think creatively, even the sky has no limits.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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