Derek Rowe is a retired British military helicopter pilot who teaches the AOPA Aviation Curriculum at McGavock High School in Nashville, Tennessee. I was introduced to him through Cindy Hasselbring, senior director of AOPA’s High School Aviation Initiative, who is responsible for AOPA’s aviation program that is now being taught in 100 classrooms across the United States.

Rowe has put together an ambitious project to support the AOPA curriculum. Students are learning to virtually fly an aircraft around the world (equatorial circumnavigation) using five Redbird simulators. They will be exposed to the many challenges that flying internationally entails including fuel planning, weather, navigation, communications, and pilot fatigue in addition to experiencing what it takes just to fly an airplane.

To prepare the students for some of the real-life challenges they would experience on this kind of flight, Rowe is having the students read, discuss, and write a book report (remember those?) on my book, Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within. They’ll learn how to respond to air emergencies and international travel, including my airplane’s engine failing over the Strait of Malacca at 14,000 feet, coasting without power 19.6 nautical miles while overloaded with 600 pounds of fuel and oil spraying on the 1,500-degree-Fahrenheit exhaust, getting put on trial for walking across the tarmac unsupervised in Oman, being charged $22 dollars a gallon for fuel, and clearing out full-sized crabs from under my bed before going to sleep on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

To give the kids additional incentive, I provided Rowe with five serialized “Courage Coins” and signed courage coin cards for the best five book reports. The coins are intended to be given to aspiring pilots to carry for inspiration and courage until they earn their pilot’s certificate and then “flown forward” to other aspiring pilots to encourage them to do the same. The coins can also be a keepsake to inspire people to go after their impossibly big dreams and hold at moments when they need courage to fly through the turbulence they may experience in life.

To help the kids who are afraid to fly or who are spooked by something they read in Zen Pilot, I also included my DVD jointly produced with Gleim Aviation titled, Overcoming the Fear of Flying: Unleashing Potential for Pilots and Passengers. The video helps to release pre-flight anxiety, calm racing thoughts, and transform terror into positive action so you can fly through life and the air with ease, grace, and joy.

To bring the experience together in the real world, we have planned a field trip for the kids to come and see the Citizen of the World with its two Predator drone engines, huge five-bladed nickel-tipped props, and 52-foot Twin Commander wing span while the airplane is getting the environmental system upgraded at Peter Schiff’s facility in Cookeville, Tennessee. Our hope is that the students will be able to experience firsthand an aircraft that is being prepared for the most challenging circumnavigation possible from the North Pole to the South Pole. They will be able to see what a general aviation aircraft is capable of with the latest technology, persistence, and a tremendous amount of support and love from many generous sponsors.

During the field trip we will light the Avidyne avionics panel so the students will be able to see what modern technology has to offer a pilot, including an Apple iPad Mini with Xnaut cooling, MaxViz infrared camera, L3 battery backup, Avidyne IFD 550/440 touch screen with synthetic vision/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/glass panel touchscreen GPS, SATPhone Store satellite communications, Lightspeed noise-canceling headsets, and a STEC 2100 3-D digital autopilot.

And equally important, the kids will see that aviation is an inspiring and empowering vehicle for the following messages that can positively affect all of us:

  • “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity” – Citizen of the World’s call to action to connect the North Pole to the South Pole and everyone in between on a mission of global peace.
  • There are more similarities than differences among people. Look for the similarities and seek to understand the differences.
  • We all are Citizens of the World and stewards of our planet.

If you share our vision for changing the world through general aviation and are interested in sponsoring an event like this for a local high school or aviation group, please reach out to us at [email protected]. We need more champions of aviation to bring about positive changes in the world.

Robert DeLaurentis is a successful real estate entrepreneur and investor, pilot, speaker, philanthropist, and author of Zen Pilot and Flying Thru Life. A Gulf War veteran, Robert received his pilot’s license in 2009, completed his first circumnavigation in 2015, and is currently preparing for his South Pole to North Pole expedition in the “Citizen of the World,” taking off November 2019 with his mission, “Oneness for Humanity: One Planet, One People, One Plane.” For more information, visit PoletoPoleFlight.com.