A group of Battery Creek High School students got an up-close-and-personal look Friday at what life is like flying and maintaining fighter jets at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
About 40 students from the high school's new Introduction to Aviation course spent about four hours walking the flight line, talking with pilots and mechanics from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 about the F-18 Hornets, and practicing flying the jets inside a flight simulator.
Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Petrucci, who teaches the class, said the trip gave his students a hands-on look at the world of military aviation.
"It's always better to be able to touch and feel than it is to read something out of a book," Petrucci said.
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According to school officials, the new course spans the history of aviation, from the Wright Brothers' first flight to the F-18 Hornets flown at the air station.
Jordan Godkin, a sophomore in the class, said he hopes to join the military after graduation. Friday's tour gave him some insight into possible career opportunities, he said.
"We've learned a lot," Godkin said. "We learned that they can tell if there's enough fluid in the plane if it's leaking out -- you would have thought that was a bad thing. We also learned how important everyone's job is. You have to make sure everything is going the way it's supposed to or you could have a disaster up there."
Parts of the tour were led by retired Marine Col. Jack Snider, the air station's former commanding officer who now works for the Beaufort County School District.
"This introductory course opens the door to students interested in aircraft maintenance, aviation electronics and even pilot training," Snider said in a statement. "Our region of South Carolina is a hub for aviation businesses, from Boeing in Charleston to Lockheed-Martin in Greenville to Gulfstream in Savannah."
The school plans to offer more advanced aviation-related courses next year, and the curriculum may eventually include dual-enrollment courses that allow high school students to earn college credits from schools like the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Snider said.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/OnBaseBeaufort.