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Fifth Graders Are Flying High

The Early Show, Tracy Smith flies with kids
CBS/The Early Show
Seattle fifth graders are giving new meaning to the phrase "higher education," by taking to the wild blue yonder, The Early Show correspondent Tracy Smith reports for Study Hall.

Athough a few of these kids want to be pilots when they grow up, the point of these classes is not to train future pilots. It is to teach the kids that, with hard work, a little play and lots of confidence, the sky is the only limit between them and success in life.

It's hard to think of them as pilots when they're too young to drive to the airport by themselves. But every year, the fly boys and fly girls of Greenwood Elementary school kids spend the year learning to navigate, build a model plane from scratch, do their own pre-flight checks and and then strap into the pilot seat of a simulator plane. Come June, it's time to take the controls of a real plane.

The program uses no taxpayer funds. Each student pays $40 and a local flight club helps out with the rest.

Before the flight, Smith asked the kids, "So if I go up with you guys, do I have to bring something for my stomach?" One kid yelled back, "Maybe a barf bag." However she said, none of the students appeared to be nervous at all.

When asked what it's like to see your 11-year-old take off, one parent said, "Oh my God, it's my baby in the air and she's in charge of that plane."

Of course, none of the students is really doing this alone - in the air or on the ground, Smith said. Learning to fly is something Principal Robert Radford, who is also the flight instructor, takes personally.

He says as a young man growing up in Mississippi during the '40s, he could only dream of a life as an Air Force pilot because of the era's strict segregation laws.

"Part of my passion comes from the fact that I was denied the ability to fly in the United States Air Force because at the time there was abject segregation," Radford said.

Of the students, he said, "they might become architects, they might become truck drivers, but the defining moment will be for them to look back on this experience and say,'Man, that was awesome.'"