THERMAL, Cali. -

The Coachella Valley Youth Aviation Education Program is rounding out its fourth year of free FAA instruction and flight education to area high school students.

     The program runs for seven days and offers 18 hours of FAA certified instruction to put students on a fast track to become pilots.

      The program was created in 2011 in the hope that the early start would help to fill a desperate need for youth in aviation, as the average age for current pilots is around 50 years old.

      Rafael Sierra is the program's creator and director. "We noted that there was a decline in the pilot population," Sierra says. "We needed new starts. The vietnam era pilots were and are fading away. So very little was being done to promote aviation in the youth ranks. Thus, the Coachella Valley Youth Aviation Program."

     The program also aims to get more women involved in aviation, which are currently at an extreme minority.

    The program accepts about 60 students a year and is run completely by volunteers and donations. Recently a particularly apt student was taken under the wing by one of the programs flight instructors and was able to become a private pilot in a blazing two and a half months.
     
     To learn more about the program and how you can help, visit their website at https://www.facebook.com/Cvyaep or  http://www.palmspringspilots.com