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Flying Kid Aces

A Washington state school is giving new meaning to the phrase higher education.

The Early Show National correspondent Tracy Smith explained on her Study Hall report that a public elementary school in Seattle is giving every fifth grader flight lessons in real planes.

But she says, the point is not to train more pilots. It's to teach kids that hard work and a little courage can mean the sky is the limit.

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 flyboys and flygirls of Greenwood elementary school take to the skies.

Student Bailey flew in some of the most crowded airspace in the northwest, but, in only her second time in an airplane, she maintained her composure.

Of course, none of the students are really flying alone — in the air or on the ground.

Learning to fly is something principal Robert Radford takes personally. As a young man in Mississippi during the 1950s, he dreamed of a life as an Air Force pilot.

"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," he said.

Now, for students under Radford's care, flying is not only allowed — it's essential. All year, kids learned to navigate, build a model plane from scratch and fly a simulator.

By June, the students fly the real thing. Families pay about $40 for the children's trip to the sky, and the flying club Wings Aloft helps out with the rest. Smith even went for a joy ride.

"So if I go up with you guys, do I have to bring something for my stomach," she asked the kids.

"Maybe a barf bag," one student chuckled.

The children do their own pre-flight checks, with a little help. Then, one at a time, they strap into the pilot's seat with nerves of steel.

Few of the students expect to fly for a living. But even so, they're grateful that their principal gave them the chance to try.

"I think we owe it to him for putting this program together and letting us fly," said Anthony Law-Phipps.

"Yeah, it's like he put it in our hands," said Anthony Sam.

Radford says his students might become architects or truck drivers.

"But the defining moment will be for them to look back on the experience and say, 'Man, that was awesome,'" he said.