#MNPSVoices: Derek Rowe, CTE Aviation Instructor

For those who are fans of the sci-fi series, Star Trek, the phrase, “space - the final frontier” likely resonates with you, just like it might for McGavock High School’s Aviation and Flight students who are preparing prepared to meet the challenge of air flight. Students participating in the program have the opportunity to earn a pilot’s license and build a two-person $85,000 aircraft capable of flying up to 10,000 feet at 200 miles per hour.

The captain of this crusade is none other than Career and Technical Education (CT) Aviation and Flight Instructor Derek Rowe, who has been with  MNPS for four years. New to teaching, he moved to the United States five years ago from Great Britain to take a job as a training director with a helicopter company. When things did not go according to plan, he found himself relying on his aviation instruction background and began sharing that knowledge at the teach high school level. Rowe has been an aviation instructor for more than 30 years, serving 17 of those years in the British Army as a pilot.  

Rowe teaches and mentors his students to consider a pilot’s degree as a minor as well as focus on their other interests. His goal for students is not to turn them into pilots, but to “convince them as young adults that if they can succeed in the program - they can do anything they want.”

“You can be a pilot and do any (other) job in the world,” he said. “Maintaining your pilot’s license can be difficult, but if they have to retire early, they will always have something to fall back on.”

The program prepares students for every career aspect of aviation not just piloting. They learn all aspects of the aerospace industry from being an astronaut to air traffic control to mechanics to baggage handlers and the airline regulatory business.

“They are all important to get the travel complete,” Rowe said. “While every student is not going to be an airline pilot, air traffic controller or airport manager, there are students who just want to get a job with benefits and support a family.”

In November, 52 sophomores will pilot an aircraft for 40 minutes and will fly from Smyrna to Nashville roundtrip with a licensed pilot. Rowe said this is a great accomplishment when you consider on average that only 50 percent of his students have flown on a commercial flight. Students can make their own decision not to fly if they think they will be scared.

“We don’t make children fly if they don’t want to,” Rowe said. “However, if we manage to persuade them to try, they come back down with the biggest smiles on their faces.”