May 1st, 2012
06:22 AM ET

Compton kids learn to fly after school

Compton kids learn to fly after school

By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN

Compton, California (CNN) – On a sunny afternoon at Compton Airport, 9-year-old Jose Pineda runs across the tarmac and makes a beeline for a single-engine Cessna.

He's completely at ease –- clearly in his element –- laughing and joking about a special celebration coming up. A birthday. He runs his hand along the side of the plane and walks underneath the wing, clearing it with a foot of headroom to spare. He swings open the door and climbs into his seat on the left side of the plane - the pilot’s seat.

Pineda carefully checks the instruments on the console. He picks up a two-way radio to talk to some "grown-ups" who run air traffic control. His seatbelt clicks and he's ready for takeoff. That's right, Pineda is a pilot; a "veteran," he tells us. He’s been studying aviation since he was 6.

Inside the hangar, Pineda's friend, Tasneem Khatib, is also preparing to take to the skies. At 11, she off to a bit of a late start.

And then there’s 16-year-old Keilyn Hubbard, dressed to the nines in a navy blue pilot's suit. Sure, he’s at least old enough to drive, but he's also training for his first solo flight.

Just who are these kids?

They're not child actors filming a movie about kids who fly. Nor are they privileged child prodigies who set aviation records.

Jose, Tasneem and Keilyn are part of a unique afterschool program for inner city youth offered by Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California.
Here, hundreds of children – as young as 5 – are learning how to fly. They learn about aerodynamics, math and science. They’re coaxed to sit in helicopters and play with the gears, and they practice flying on flight simulators until they're ready for the real thing.

"Being up in the sky, being able to stand next to (the planes) can't do this every day as a normal person," Jose says. "It takes courage and bravery to be up in the air that high."

He wants to be a commercial airline pilot when he grows up. "I want to be a doctor and dentist, as well," he says. Here, that kind of talk is encouraged. The sky is the limit.

Robin Petgrave, a pilot and entrepreneur who was inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, started the youth outreach program.

Each of the planes in his fleet is dedicated and named after one of the historical pilots. "That way they will fly with us forever, and their legacy will never be forgotten," he says. Petgrave dedicates his life to the flight school and the children who come here seeking a safe haven.

"The kids come here with all kinds of situations. They're 8-year-olds who have witnessed a murder," he says. "There are demographics and situations that can overwhelm a kid and put them in a position where they have no control, and they wind up part of the criminal justice system. This gives them an out."

To earn flight time, the students must finish their homework, help each other with their studies, and do chores around the airport such as wash airplanes and sweep the hangar.

It's a $500,000 per year program, which is funded by grants, donations and the goodwill of others. Like many nonprofits that were hit by the economic downturn, Petgrave's program is struggling.

"Because of the recent hardships that some of our funding sources have gone through, we've been waiting for four months of reimbursements. We just don't have the cash-flow," he says.

The reality is heartbreaking.

"We got an eviction notice from the landlord, if we don’t get caught up with the $12,000 worth of back rent. An eviction notice. We got a demand letter from one of the financing companies for the aircraft. We have some serious challenges," Petgrave says.

One Saturday in March, the electric company turned off the power after Petgrave couldn't pay the bill.

"The kids made do the best way they could. They did their lessons outside by the aircraft. We used natural lighting to provide the stuff they needed to do the lesson. It's disheartening to me that a program this effective has to struggle," he says.

Petgrave uses his personal money and his family's funds to supplement the program and keep it going. That same month, he lost his home.

"This program, it's bigger than me; it's bigger than my family. Something really phenomenal is about to happen here. We’re working on a program now to make some of these kids astronauts," he says. "If I have to live out of a cardboard box, then so be it."

Petgrave is still looking for his dream champion. "It's the person who wants to come down and donate some time; it's the person who wants to upgrade our website to capture the money better. There's so many ways people can help. They just don't know. That's the problem."

Meanwhile, the young pilots soldier on. Petgrave invites many of the program's alumni to mentor the beginners. They include a young man who became a commercial airline pilot at the age of 19. Then there are the record-setters like Kimberly Anyadike, who became the youngest African-American female to fly solo across the United States when she was 15.

But the stars here are the living inspirations, the visiting Tuskegee Airmen who offer their love and support. Levi Thornhill, 89, is one of them. "I want them to be able to have a can see the hope in their eyes," he says. “When I first came here about 10 years ago, I was talking to Robin and somebody out on the street pulled up and shot a couple of rounds. To see what the kids did tore me up. The kids hit the deck."

So what does the program give these pilots that they can't get elsewhere? "Hope. Hope. H.O.P.E. Hope to do something they really are interested in," Thornhill says.

Keilyn expects to conquer his first solo flight before the summer is over, and he sees a career with the military in his future. "I already know the basic instruments, the basic maneuvers and the basics of flying," he says. "My long-term goal is to go to the Naval Academy and be a vice admiral for the Special Forces division. There is no limit. I can go above the sky."

"Above the sky" is exactly how Jose feels when he's flying. After taxiing onto the runway (a flight instructor watching his every move), he hits the gas. The Red Tail – named after Tuskegee Airman Thornhill – begins barreling down the strip. Soon, it's floating high above Compton.

"Being in the air, you can't explain with words, but you can explain with action," he says. "If I didn't have this place, I'd be a lazy boy having F's in school. Now, I'm one of the top students in the class. It's like taking baby steps, but now you can run."

*To contribute to Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, visit their website at

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soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. mal di gola

    Hello, Neat post. There's a problem with your site in web explorer, could test this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a big component to other people will leave out your wonderful writing due to this problem.

    May 7, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  2. Robert

    What an incredible man to atempt (and suceed) at this noble endevor! (from a commercial pilot)

    May 5, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • alumette

      Great idea and a great motivator to get the kids to feel good about themselves ! way to go !

      May 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  3. little flap

    What a cool program !! What a great article !! These are GREAT people !! I am a pilot. (!) I am also sickened and appalled by all the stupid jealous creepy commenters here. Why do ignorant people make comments ?? People who hate are ignorant. Plus, none of you fly !! Get out of the comment section.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  4. davidabarak

    Nice story and a wonderful program! I've contacted their organization to see if they can use some free passes I've got for the USS Mifdway Museum here in San Diego.

    And Sonya Hamasaki – "They’re coaxed to sit in helicopters and play with the gears..." Play with the gears? You're not serious, right? *grumble*

    May 3, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  5. gatecrasher1

    They could buy some old planes from Northwest Airlines and start "NWA" flying out of Compton, fo'shizzle.

    And all these "negative" Compton comments- hey look, it's not our fault that some of their "illustrious sons" made it the capital of West Coast gangsta rap.

    May 3, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  6. Pablo

    Great story and more flight time for everyone involved.

    This is an inspirational story. We should all try to help people like these in our own and other communicties.

    May 3, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  7. John

    Mr Petgrave

    I wish you all the success and luck the world has to offer....what you are doing is terrific!!! i have been afforded every opportunity one can imagine, and can't find the time to help people the way you do - you are a hero!! (by the way I am white, a former air force pilot with 3,000 hours, harvard business school and other opportunities - but YOU are really doing the work - all the best)

    May 3, 2012 at 3:31 am |
  8. rose

    You don't…thats kind of the point. little bitter person.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  9. A New Fan of this program

    I am amazed at the vast amount of ignorance expressed in some of the comments. If this same article with the same criteria was based out of the Torrance Airport (similar sized airport, ten miles west of Compton in a "white neighborhood") the program would be applauded. Mr. Petgrove I applaud you for providing hope in a place that is viewed only as a wasteland, where nothing good can happen.

    Dear Racist, Hatred never changed a thing, especially a closed mind.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • mlkingjr

      No- demanding equality is not racist. Hiring people because they are black- not because they are qualified- is racist. Lowering the standards to get admitted into a top college because a student is black is racist.

      All of us white people were not born rich. Some of us are struggling and working 2 jobs so our children can have basic needs met. And none of us get free flight lessons for our children. It seems that the children of parents who sit back and collect welfare and foodstamps have more benefits than the children of the lower middle class.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
      • mel

        This program is provided by a non-profit organization located in the area. If you would like one in your area to teach lower income children in your mainly white location, all you have to do is start one. Nothing racist about that, anyone is free to start an organization to service who ever and which ever location they wish. Last I checked this was still a free country. Don't blame others for apathy and lack on involvement in your community.

        May 3, 2012 at 12:50 am |
      • puckles

        Totally agree.

        May 3, 2012 at 1:47 am |
      • rose

        Both Extreme rich and poor can abuse & drain society & your precious tax dollars. My guess is your real problem is finding gloves in the winter. All that finger pointing at who's to blame for your life must stretch them out.

        May 3, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • mel

      I agree, some of the people on these boards are becoming the bizarro Al Sharpton; complain about an act and then do the exact same thing.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  10. Shorty

    I honestly believe that this program is a worthwhile project. Helping kids to get out and do something other than playin' kick-th-can in the streets, where the thugs don't take "no" for an answer.
    As for the "middle-class white folks" . If they do what my folks did, and not buy $60,000 cars, and not live in $1,000,000 homes, and not buy $80,000 boats. They too can teach their kids to fly in the family airplane.
    It's simply a matter of priorities. In my limited experience. The folks that feel the need to live with all the expensive cars, homes, and boats, 4 wheelers, etc. along with all the debt that comes with it. Are not inclined to become involved in aviation in the first place. Those that are, have made sacrifices, in order to persue the aviation dream, but still have a way better standard of living than these inner city kids, living in the projects.
    When all you know is negativity, thats all you will expect. But this program gives these kids (not their parents) a reward for doing well.
    While it may seem to be geared more toward one race over any other, I'm thinking that it's not. But geared toward ANY kid living in abject poverty, who wants to become involved, and will follow the rules. Study hard, get good grades, do work around the airport (sweeping the hangar, wash/wax airplanes, cut the grass, etc.) Nothing wrong with that, as a reward for their efforts, they get to learn to fly. Nothing wrong with that either.
    Gives these kids something constructive to do, That is also fun, and exciting.
    And whether it's paid for by tax dollars, or independant donations, is immaterial, the dollars are being spent here in the U.S. instead of being sent to some third world country where the government holds all the cash, and the people get nothing.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • JCB

      Oh how the mighty have fallen... The problem with this program is not the intent, but the person behind it. What even OPRAH doesn't know is how R.P. designed this program just as he has with everything else in his life...with selfish intent. To start with, he earned his money the old fashioned way... he SUED for it! Money, OTHER peoples money, then fueled his balloonyland sized ego along with his Little Richard tinted wardrobe down to his MJ shoes and fancy car. He is a wanna-a- be showbiz huckster who climbed over the backs of every kind person who ever helped him in aviation. Ask ANYONE in LOS ANGELES at any flight school other than his... about this bafoon and they will have a STORY for you.He has wrecked helicopters on buildings and blamed the weather. Wrecked relationships and blamed EVERYONE. "live in a cardboard box" he says HA! Just as long as someone else buys it, then he'll do it. The moral of this story is a sad one just remember to vet the Charities Folks.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  11. Erisian

    I thought this had been happening for quite awhile now. I used to go to the airport and see passenger jets that said N.W.A. on the side but they all disappeared a few years ago.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. dccb9

    I think this program sounds nice, but makes me wonder about something.

    My husband and I work very long hours to try to give our kids a shot – to save for college and give them good experiences, but we could never afford to give them flying lessons. Is the moral of the story that we should just stop working? It seems like the kids of parents who don't work hard get more than the kids of parents who do. I often feel like my kids are punished for having hard working parents.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • grounded!

      I know, right?

      May 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • GetReal

      dccb9 – I feel sorry for your kids.

      You say that, since you work hard but cant afford flying lessons for your kids, that you should stop working so that your kids can get free flying lessons and other things that kids with families who have nothing get?

      That's like saying you should contract a fatal disease so you can go to hospital and have free room service like all those dying people there that have people bring them food because they cannot get out of bed.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Brian in TX

      I agree. My wife and I both burn the candle at both ends and sometimes it makes you wonder. Not only are you spending more time at work than with your family, but you're making too much to qualify for any assistance but not enough to remotely considering flying as a hobby (!). The responsible ones pay for everybody else's bailouts, welfare, food stamps and college and have nothing to show for it.

      May 2, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
      • mel

        This is a non-profit....similar to most churches and the various programs and assistance they offer.

        May 3, 2012 at 12:58 am |
      • little flap

        just more jealousy here in this commenter too. You jealous people are creepy.

        May 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • mel

      I'm really finding it odd how many people are upset about a non-profit FROM THE COMMUNITY, providing something for the people IN THE COMMUNITY. All one has to do is be proactive and start something if you want something similar in your own town. Have you thought of talking to people in your own community to start something for the children? All it takes is some innovation and get up and go, talking to the right people and pulling resources. But, I guess it's just easier to complain about those that do.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • little flap

      Your comments reveal your jealousy. What is with all these wicked people leaving comments here???? This is a GREAT program. I am a pilot.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Sumo

    I think this looks great as a headline and all, but wouldn't it be better to focus on the type of help these kids actually NEED?

    Sure it might be good fun for these kids to learn to fly planes or go horseback riding or sail around on a mega-yacht, but wouldn't it be much more productive if we could provide them with healthy meals, or up-to-date textbooks, or reasonable class sizes?

    It might be a great publicity stunt to teach an underprivledged kid how to fly a 172, but if the same kid goes home hungry and sleeps in the back of a station wagon, don't we have our priorities out of order? There are MUCH better "charities" out there that one can give to.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  14. GetReal

    I donated $50 just now. It isnt much, but it is what I can afford. And because of my views re: the black culture, I am definitely considered a racist by many.

    So be it, I am ok with that moniker. However, i consider myself a realist, and I look at a large segment of the black community as doing little but breeding future thugs.

    Now that you know me, I will tell you why I donated. I donated because all kids need hope and dreams. ALL. Poor or rich, blue or black. And so many of these kids have nothing whatsoever to dream about or hope for. And in a few years, many or most will be involved in the thug life, one way or another. Their lives are wasted, and we pay for it in countless ways. And when they have kids, those kids will simply be the next generation of gang members that we read about in the news. So on and so forth.

    But here is a chance (and there are others besides this program ) to make a difference. I know my donation, on its own, has little impact. But if thousands of others donat the same, it would have an impact, and 1 or more kids will actually have some happiness in their lives, and will start to treat school and life with purpose. THAT is what will get rid of the ghetto thug culture, because in case you havent noticed, laws, prisons, and curfews have done little to stem the flow of these kids becoming thugs.

    Again, I am ok with being called racist, so have it. I am comfortable with my views and name calling does not bother me in the least.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  15. Al

    Yeah, those Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas flying missions were a real pain.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  16. Gus

    It's a crying same that some of you morons would even spread this racist and toxic crap out of your month in todays day and age. Upon the return to the United States,The Tuskegee Airman although being the most decorated squadron of WWII faced the hollowing fact that "Delta Airlines among others" had it in their charter's that they "We will not hire Negros or colored's"
    So lets forward that 50-60 years later, and you jack asses still feel the playing field is level, Well my friend as a current Major Airline Captain and former Fighter pilot you all can go to hell. Instead of waste our time with your racist redirect, pick up a book and educate yourself, other than with the crap that comes from Fox News and the tea partiers. I for one enjoy and will continue to forward my assists and time to ANY minority who ask for help in avaition

    May 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  17. Barb

    I can't get over the negative,bitter and just plain nasty comments that are posted. Why would anyone want to parade their ignorance? Why don't you make a donation instead, like I did?

    May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  18. rick1948

    I started learning to fly, years ago, when I was 13. What a great confidence builder that ultimately led to a career. These kids are lucky to have the opportunity.

    May 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  19. Moreh

    What is the matter with you? These kids are dedicated and are setting a foundation for their lives. I would have loved to get the opportunity to fly at their age! Ugly, racist comments such as yours are very inappropriate and unkind.

    May 2, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  20. mark

    I would support this program if I knew it was open to all races. Anyone excluded base on race is just plain wrong and any organization that does and receive federal aid should be shut down or taking to court.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • rose

      It is open to all races. Simply move your family out of your neighborhood and into Compton.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  21. larper2

    If a 9 year old child can't learn how to drive a car why should they be taught to fly? It is just a waste of money. They should help adults get a pilot's license to help the job market and not a gimmick.

    May 2, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Jake

      There's much less traffic in the air, plus flying a plane is probably much more complex than a car so they have to do double duty to understand how to work the thing. And All of that put together with the overall dream of flying, no doubt puts there motivation beyond limits :D.

      I think it's a great program. They need more programs like this in compton and in other cities. Those kids growing up in poverty and gang environments need something like this to be the best they can be in life.

      Keep the program up! 🙂

      May 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • gatecrasher1

      These kids are not solo flying- they are not allowed to at that age. The benefit is that they are being exposed to the positive aspects of aviation, which can lead to skilled careers as a pilot, in aircraft maintenance, operations, design, and a number of other areas.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  22. jb

    I thought we eradicated the KKK before Osama

    May 2, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  23. denny2100

    Hopefully Homeland Security will soon be putting an end to this program.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • noteabags

      Why? Should only rich, white people be able to fly?

      May 2, 2012 at 7:01 am |
      • robert

        No not just the rich. But we didnt get these oppertunities because our parents worked. And instead of just mentioning white people you could probably count on one hand how many that arent white have donated.

        May 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • alumette

      Homeland security is the gestapo in drags. Please.....leave them out of our lives.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  24. Marine5484

    I went to a program like this at Seabreeze high school with the help of Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach and it was one of the best experiences while I was in high school. It kept me focused in school and motivated me to keep good grades just so I could ensure that I could go fly.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  25. Jon Deal

    As a soon to be 39-year-old male who believes politics are worthless, I think this is a great program that is correct to FOCUS on young "INDIVIDUALS" (not just minorities as some have asserted) who need some extra attention in their lives. I work in a traditional office with many single parents who struggle (by their own standards) to provide the basics for their kids (all races and economic status) and cant afford to "indulge" them as defined by middle/upper class standards of which are usually materialistic versus accomplishment based. What can possibly be wrong by providing an outlet for learning and "life direction" to young INDIVIDUALS looking for direction in their lives. If you are a complainer and crying minority or economic foul; I non-acknowledge the argument as I cant provide flying lessons to my kid, but I am more than certain that you can provide equipment for sports, a new computer, a pair of shoes, or other self-esteem boosts to provide that little extra feeling of joy and self esteem.

    May 2, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  26. jc

    From a young age, I've always been in awe of anything associated with aviation- pilots, jumbo jets, 4-seater Cessnas...But not until my first flight did I really realize and appreciate what aviation offers: a sense of freedom, intense focus, responsibility, discipline...For every one potential mishap that can go wrong in a plane (and believe me, there are a few out there), there are countless more advantages and lessons that come out of it. Yes, it's true that flying is not for everyone. But for those that appreciate and enjoy doing it, the sky is truly the limit.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  27. Paula

    What this program is teaching are skills, work ethics, and resilience to see a challenge through to success. It's not about whether these kids become pilots or not...the point is that kids learn how to accomplish a goal through hard work...something you can't learn from a textbook or on the streets. Bravo!

    May 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  28. fatcat

    i am foster parent to an inner city child since his mother could no longer control him and keep her younger children safe from him. As much as i applaud this program is somebody checking that its safe to put these troubled children in charge of an airplane?
    My foster son can charm your socks off yet he has strangled several of my pets already and my sharpies are locked up.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • BK

      They are not in charge of the plane. There is a flight instructor sitting next to them the entire time.

      May 2, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • mel

      in training planes, the pilot still has complete control....similar to cars used to teach kids to drive. My brother is in the air force and used to train people to fly. I flew many times with him and trust me, he was never out of control.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  29. bbc

    But just maybe they won't be flying for pay, maybe they will do it because they love to fly...what a concept, huh? Maybe one or more of the students will be creative and figure out a way to increase the pay of pilots. Maybe, maybe, maybe...let's support and build up rather than tear down.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  30. Chrystal L. Prather

    Apparently some of you DO NOT EVEN READ or EVEN look at the Report because if you actually take a look there are kids of all creeds and color. I hardly doubt that there is a "social" stage that you have to be to get into this program. Kids who are in trouble and who are in the streets come from all backgrounds, race, creeds and orientation. I swear the only thing social media is doing is giving the 88% of people who aren't smart to speak and look like assholes while doing it. SMH and Mary don't cry, stand up and be strong. Most of these people are trolling because their lives are sad and have nothing good to say about anything. A black dog can die and someone will point out how it's black and oppressed.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  31. tigerbill

    I hate to throw cold water here, but has anyone else noticed the serious Federal Aviation Regulation issues implied here? The story is factually in error with respect to age restrictions, assuming the flight instructor is not encouraging illegal flight operations. It may be sending the wrong signals to other aspiring young aviators who, when they find out the facts, may wonder why they can't do what these youngsters did? No one can legally "solo" anywhere in US airspace at age 15 – "Kimberly Anyadike, who became the youngest African-American female to fly solo across the United States when she was 15." You can't legally get a student license until you are 16 with strict limits on distance you can fly from your home airport and only with an endorsement to your logbook by an instructor. Any instructor who would endorse a student pilot to fly solo across this country should have his certificate revoked and his head examined, which I doubt he did. Secondly, you have to be at least 17 to get a private license, which could be used to solo across the country, but still not a great idea for anyone, especially someone who takes off thinking he's an aviation wunderkind. There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. So for the 15 year old, she had to have a licensed flight instructor or qualified, current pilot in command in the right seat with dual controls to fly legally at 15, and that's not soloing. The other prodigies would have even greater restrictions as they definitely don't qualify for a student certificate. While I admire and applaud the passion to teach and encourage basic flying skills, I'm not hearing the right mindset for modern aviation that somehow underage aspiring child-pilots have the judgment to conduct safe flight at age 5,6,9 or 10 years of age. They do not. This is video game flying, not aviation. After many years of folks studying the total human factors involved in safe flight operations across all ages, medical conditions and skill sets, there is a body of sound evidence and REASONS embodied for our FARs with age limits, currency, and minimum demonstrated skill-sets that have been set for protection of both aspiring young pilots and the general safety of the public. I want to see these young pilots grow old and safe with their passion, not early aviation casualties.

    May 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  32. Bonifer

    Eagle Flight Squadron, founded by Rev. Russell White, has been in existence in East Orange NJ, for over 20 years, has given aviation lessons to over 3,000 kids from the Newark/East Orange communities, and currently has nearly 300 of its graduates working in the aviation industry. Eagle Flight is PROOF that this program can work, and can provide lifelong career guidance for the kids who participate. Good for Petgrave and TAM!

    May 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Dave

      Joe: Did you seriously think that we needed to read your negative drivel?

      I applaud Mr. Petgrave. I am a multi-thousand hour ATP and CFI and I am trying to implement a program just like this. Negative people like you don't solve problems – they just add fuel to the fire.

      May 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  33. jj

    What a stupid freakin comment....loser!

    May 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Bobby Bankston

      What is stupid about the truth? Just go to this site to read all about the dismal pay for commercial pilots:

      Respectfully, I would say it is YOUR comment that is rather "stupid" in that you rashly jumped to a conclusion about what I was saying without thinking first.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  34. Jack Martin

    To avoid being totally negative, I acknowledge this sounds like a good program. It just seems to me that there is a "care gap" when it comes to programs like this. These programs invariably cater to the lowest-income demographic. Admittedly kids of wealthy parents don't need programs like this. But what about kids of hard-working middle-class parents who don't have extra money for this sort of thing? Their parents have no more ability to provide such opportunities to their kids than the parents of these "at risk" kids (if indeed they have parents). I'm not arguing that it's easier to be a lower-class minority kid than it is to be a white middle-class kid. I'm just saying that it seems oftentimes these "at risk" kids get opportunities delivered to them which middle-class kids don't.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • nonag

      Flying is a fun, but expensive hobby. Teaching kids to fly that have no connotation of the costs ($, time, repairs, etc)involved in kind of cruel since they would not be able to do this on their own (this is mostly true for all but the most affluent). It is an honerable gesture, but like a boat (a hole in the water you throw money into).
      I would rather see them learning a trade such as architecture / construction where they can build homes for the homeless, or attend a culinary institute, learn to be a chef, and cook for the hungry, something that society can benefit from.

      May 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • rose

      Agreed. Lets close that care gap. So kids receiving good basic care now get the sympathy care too... leaving less care for the kids already receiving none. Like it.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  35. Aviator

    I am a black aviator started off as a technician and am now a pilot. i think the program is great also. Maybe I do not understand the article or the politics behind it. Are people saying that it is not a program for other races of children because of where it is or did someone mention it is not for other races? The grant is probably given for it being a minority program but its open to everybody I am pretty sure. If your saying you dont want to take your children to that area for the training thats one thing but to say they are excluded is in my opinion not fair. Now I admit maybe I have a lack of knowledge about the grant program maybe someone can help me. Is there a quota that has to be met for the program to exist? Do so many black children have to be enrolled for the grant? if someone has this knowledge please clarify.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  36. lsw

    It's distressing that this discourse has gotten lost in envy and racism. This program is a great opportunity for kids from poverty backgrounds to experience aviation and learn important life skills. It will have a profoundly beneficial effect on their lives. We should all applaud the program and wish that other children could have the same experience. Rather than complain, why not encourage your local schools to start similar programs? Celebrate success! Emulate it! The founder of this program is to be admired.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Lauren

      Thank you! Thank you for seeing good for what it is – good. Why can't more people see something that is simply and purely good, say "bravo", and if they see a need for something similar somewhere else – look into starting it. Instead of complaining that this one program does not meet the needs of all children. No ONE program can! If it helps ONE child – then it has been a success!

      May 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  37. SillyGoose

    You are all so kissable

    May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  38. madness

    Every child deserves hope. Poor black kid growing up in the hood isn't going to have a chance at hope. Maybe I didn't get flying lessons but as a white kid, I was born with hope. Oh no. The pos racists are going to cry about a few bucks being spent on the underpriviledged. I'm going to this school's website and donate a couple bucks for every hate comment I find posted here. Probably bankrupt me but I'll have something good to feel about and not die a pos.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Mary

      It's a sad state of affairs when socially thoughtful comments such as yours are the exception rather than the rule. This country is going backwards with all the racism and hatred. I can barely read the comments sectiion on most news sites because all the hate makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
      • little flap


        May 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • mlkingjr

      don't worry- you're donating to this program every time you pay any tax. i'm happy you support racism of poor minority children getting preference over poor white children

      May 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
      • will

        Oh my god here we go. And I guess you have proof that none of these kids are white right?

        May 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  39. Obama does have a clue

    This is a great program, and to think Obama wants to tax these rides $100 per takeoff/landing. Great way to encourage youth to persue a career in a growing industry, don't you think?!

    May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Andy Daniel

      The president's propsal taxes corporate and jet aircraft. Specifically exempt are "recreational piston aircraft" which is basically 99% of the aircraft that private pilots (and these kids) fly.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
      • Philip

        You must not be a pilot to make a stupid statement like that. It will kill the aviation industry. Why don't you do back outside and smash some more bank windows.

        May 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • jj

      another stupid comment...we get it, you don't like Obama...moron.

      May 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  40. Ice Cube in Ice T

    I support it as long as it's open to ALL races (which I'm betting it isn't).

    May 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • FlyBoy64

      Great program for kids at risk. For those not living in Compton, if you are interested in getting your kids hooked on aviation and focused on their science, math, and technology do the following. Look up the nearest Experimental Aircraft Association chapter on the internet (there are hundreds) and find out when they are having their next Young Eagles event. This takes kids of any socio-ecomonic/ethnic/racial group and gives them their first ride in an airplane for free. Parents need to be present and sign a consent form, that's it. We'll be happy to give them time in the plane and let them handle the controls (monitored at all times) if they are interested. Over 1.6 MILLION kids have been flown in this program. We don't go into full-up lessons, as this gentleman is doing for a handfull of kids, but we show them a different perspective on the world...

      Chapter President

      May 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
      • Carlos from Texas

        Thanks for the info FlyBoy64! You've just inspired me to get my kids involved

        May 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Go figure

      Don't you have EVERY opportunity available to you already? Can't others have something? My goodness. The greed. Let these children have a chance.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Chrystal L. Prather

      Actually dumbass there is a white kid in the aviation program. Watch it again you can see him. I did.

      May 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  41. Noah

    It is great that these kids are getting to learn to fly and if Petgrave is really doing this out of his own pocket and willing donations then perfect. If one dime of this is coming from taxpayers this is outrageous and I'll would be willing to bet my tax return (which is non-exsistent) this year that those "grants" are the majority of the funding and are from the government. Take nothing away from Petgrave good for him and a great opportunity for these kids, but if this was a white program no tax consideration would be given. Racism isnt fueled by the ordinary people in this country just trying to do right, its fueled by the govt who perpetually get int eh way to make things "FAIR" by a few peoples standards. It breeds frustration and anger. I hope these kids get all thier dreams, but we all know there is a greater than 50% chance this is govt funded in some way and its done to ensure a group of individuals votes a certain way.

    May 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Ice Cube in Ice T

      The article did say it was funded by 'grants/' More than likey those are state/federal grants.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  42. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I'm sorry, did I hear someone say "this is great because our taxpayer dollars won't be paying for these kids for the rest of their lives while they're in prison and thanks for those black doctors that saved my life when I was dying".

    May 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  43. Aware1

    First the topic at hand. Great program! These are the things we need to focus on. So many gifted children in the inner city that don't just want to be actors, singers, sports athletes. Reading many negative remarks from miserable people I can see straight up hatred and ignorance. Those are the same folks who like seeing the kids sing and dance and gyrate their bodies and also like watching them in sports but soon as it is something other the negativity and ignorance comes out. That is just hatred and misery – oh yeah even jealousy.! If you cannot see anything positive about this then you have a deep problem – and that problem will most likely be passed on to your kid for a lifetime!!!!!!! You better think about this when/if someone want to do something noble for you. By the way poor people in inner cities pay taxes too – so come off it!!!

    May 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  44. the_dude

    I don't remeber getting any free flight lessons in my privaleged white youth.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Joeoc2002

      Good point....and look how you ended up.

      May 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  45. mike collins

    Yet another big money program thrown at inner city youth while the rest of our kids get stuck with the bills.

    And in the end it won't make one bit of a difference.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • denim

      It'll make a difference to the kids who are in it. And if they're living on donations, you precious tax money is not at risk.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  46. Dan Brock

    Robert Petgrave, a good man. Excellent work.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  47. mike collins

    Basically, no one has a legitimate answer.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  48. lolita from rhode island


    May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  49. rick

    lucky! i wish i lived in compton!

    May 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  50. cogman62

    I love it when young folks get into aviation. You can bet these young folks will do well and perform better in school because they know that their behavior and character are what got them into the left seat of a Cessna. Once you breathe those 100LL fumes of avgas, you want to fly again and again and again. I even dream of flying when I sleep. Wish I had a few bucks to donate to this worthy program. I am a pilot and I love this program.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  51. LC in NJ

    Strange how some people complain that inner city kids are nothing but criminals. Now that someone is giving a few of them a sense-of-purpose, self-worth, and putting them on a positive path for the future, those same people find something else to complain about.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

      there is no logic in racism, those people will hate no matter what.

      May 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • GetReal

      I loathe the ghetto mentality and the thugs it produces more than most having had to live in and around it for several years.On the flip side, this is a program that can do and has done wonders for some kids (i dont care what color they are – I only know that it helps).

      I learned to fly when I was in my late 20's and it is the most satisfying, exhilerating (sp), complex things I have ever done. There is nothing like it, and had I been able to be exposed to flying when I was a kid, I would have thought the world was in my lap.

      If these kids have something to latch onto that gives them motivation to learn and stay in school and have hope that their lives will be fulfilling (and non violent) , that can be ONE LESS thug created, and maybe that kid that grows up will help other kids, and on and on.

      Jeez, lighten up folks. This is a fantastic program. Donate to it or shut your pie hole.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  52. mike collins

    why can't these kids simply go home and study like my kids do?

    May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • R.A.

      Are you for real......these kids are learning to fly. That beats studying any day of the week. Maybe you should let your kids do something different for a change. Might just ignite a passion for something other than school. What a novel idea.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • jbcal

      Man, I feel sorry for your kids.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • thebiggerpicture

      Do your kids know to hit the deck for gunshots? Probably not something you've had to teach them, right? Anything that helps teach a kid that there is something beyond where they grow up is a good thing, even more so if they grow up in a place like these kids do.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • LC in NJ

      Your kids probably have current books. Theirs are most likely outdated.

      Your kids probably have mommy and/or daddy waiting at home to help them with their homework over milk-and-cookies. Their moms may be on the way to a second job when they are getting home from school.

      See the differences yet?

      May 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Dave

      Having taught in inner-city school, I can tell you with confidence that a lot of these kids go home to neighborhoods filled with crime, drugs, violence, and plenty of other negative distractions that prohibit concentration and a peaceful environment in which to do homework. Maybe mom's boyfriend is beating her while the kid needs to do his or her homework... Maybe a sibling is in the hospital or in jail. The more we can keep these kids occupied in a positive environment, the better it is for them and for society.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • come on man

      Sooooo you would have us to believe if your kids were given the chance to do something like this you wouldn't take it. Come on Mike, Really!

      May 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
      • mlkingjr

        i think he's saying his kids will never get the chance because

        1 he's not rich
        2. these programs are only for minorities

        May 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • GetReal

      "why cant these kids just go home and study like my kids do?"

      Because your kids dont have to navigate gang shooting, gang members, and countless other hazards on their way home like these kids do. And when they get home,. they often get to "study" in their bathtubs because that's the safest place to be in the event of a drive-by shooting. Things like that tend to make THEM a little different than US.

      More so, your kids likely have hope that what they work for now will pay off later. These kids, on the other hand, cannot make a connection between hard work now and success later because there are so few that even have a "later", let alone a successful "later."

      Hope that helps

      May 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  53. Smokey

    Lance – how small is your brain?

    May 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  54. grounded!

    I got halfway to my license (Im 16) and ran out of money. AND thanks to the dems I cant get a job to pay for the rest. Free lessons would be nice....

    May 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      Whatever happen to that personal responsibility crap Cons always preach about????

      May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
      • jbcal

        That only applies to others.

        May 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Javier

      Join the military..they paid for college and flight worries....

      May 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  55. scg

    What a lonely and small world you live in. Really stands out in your comment. I don't know who's actually worse. People of all colors who commit drive-bys or people like you who are shallow and lacking of knowledge. I'm guessing you made it to 5th grade.

    May 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  56. Erik

    Really Myke? Really? Can't be serious.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  57. aviationblackhole

    Welcome to the aviation blackhole. Be prepared to be broke.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  58. goodegyptian

    By 2050, a lot of people will be flying their own airplanes much like the automobile traffic today. 50% of all automobile traffic will be reduced.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  59. StraightUp

    Whats disturbing in our society is to read about all the "billionaires" out there who with hardly a drop out of their buckets could easily write a check to keep a program such as this going.. $12,000 for one of the many billionaires in this country is one big night out for some of them, thats all it is, where is that same amount could save a well meaning and valuable program for our society.. it makes me sick to see wealthy people who walk around in a suit or gown that costs $12,000 and here that could pay for this program's rent!! The divide between the wealthy and the non-wealthy in this country is creating a polarized society such as we have never experienced. Good luck with the program in the meantime!

    May 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • joe

      There are millions of impoverished people in third world countries that feel the same way about you. Only they're looking for clean, drinkable water and something to eat.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
      • R.A.

        Teach the third world poor about "Dumpter Diving" cause it works well for many!!!!

        May 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  60. mlkingjr

    isn't a program that is only for black and hispanic children racist?

    or would a program that only allowed white children be racist?

    blatant double standard

    May 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • StraightUp

      I think you are misunderstanding this program.. has nothing to do with race, is based on your economic background.. if you're poor, you qualify, regardless of the color of your skin..

      May 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • jbcal

      Where does it say only Black or Hispanic children?

      May 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • R.A.

      YES, its a democrat supported program only for minorities. No others need apply.

      May 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  61. su3385

    Wish I had a bunch of $$$$$$, this sounds like a worthy cause.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  62. Hugo

    I am wondering if these people know that these airplanes use AVGAS 100LL. A fuel that contains twice as much lead as car fuel used to have. I wonder if they know about Dr Miranda' study of over 125 000 kids which clearly shows that kids living within 2km of an airport are poisonned by lead. And finally, I wonder if they know the devastating effects lead has on kid's IQs.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Nathan

      You're right, they would have so much better a chance at life if they just grew up to be gang bangers...

      May 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Steve

      Stop! You have a better idea to help children then I dare you to go out and do something. At least this guy is trying.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • John

      Oh give it a rest!

      May 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  63. corpsman

    Sounds like a great program. Hats off to Petgrave, the other instructors and the kids.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  64. Emperor Vadik, CA

    It is amazing what those guys at Compton Airport do for the inner city kids. I have seen kids just like Jose Pineda start off by flying at Compton at an early age of 12, become airline pilots by the time they are in their 20's.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  65. YoseMom

    While this is great, there are other communities that are fighting to just keep their local public schools open. Everyone is so worried about the inner city kids, music and arts programs, etc. while kids in more isolated areas are be put onto a bus for up to 5 hours a day just to go to school (and now they even want to cut the bus program). First they took away our arts and music and other programs (a few years ago), now they are closing our local schools to put the kids on the buses for a good chunk of their day, and now they are even taking the bus away (so how are we suppose to get our kids to schools so far away?). I still say that programs like this are great, but it would be nice if things would be more even across the board. Poor kids don't live only in the city.

    May 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Chrystal L. Prather

      I hear you but it's happening everywhere so no one is exempt. Instead of complaining about it DO SOMETHING or shut up!

      May 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  66. Cherie

    That is beautiful! That's what I am talking about! Black children are capable of being the best as well! They just have to be exposed! I LOVE IT!

    May 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  67. samuraikatana1

    Good to see this type of program at different schools. I went through a similar program at my high school. Had my first solo flight in a single engine Sundowner at 16, and my Private Pilot's license at 18. It really was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm thankful I was able to participate in it.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  68. Sarah

    I think that it's cool that these kids get to learn how to fly at a young age, plus it being free. If I could, I would love to be able to do this if I ever got the chance. I think that it is really cool that they get to do this.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  69. Franny

    I think it is a good experience for younger kids to learn how to fly. I think also that it will let them get better in school to know the simple techniques, but I also think that they should pay some because to learn how to fly and to go to ground school cost a bit and I don't think that it would be fair for the people who want to make a living by being a pilot and all would have to pay for the whole process.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  70. JS

    It's great that these kids are learning to fly, but it irks me that they get this for free. It cost me nearly 10K to learn to fly.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • rh

      I think you are missing the point

      May 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Pilots wife

      Really? You are upset that some inner city kids who have no chance in life are getting "free" lessons. I am having a hard time beliving that you are indded a pilot. Every pilot I have every spoke to has wanted to educate and get more kids involved. It really sickens me.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
      • mike collins

        If these kids have "no chance" in your eyes, then I wonder what your take is on the chances of a child growing up in Sudan, China or a little girl in any Muslim country?

        These kids have as much or better chance as most kids with access to free schooling, priority placement in job programs or college admissions and a host of government assistance programs.

        May 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
      • David

        get back to the kitchen please...make me a sammich.

        May 3, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • sadtosay

      JS, 10k is not a huge sum when compared to many educational programs including colleges and trade skills. Aside from that, it is money well spent to givie a child the potential for a much better life and to be a contributing memeber of society.

      May 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • booyah

      did you grow up in the inner city?

      May 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Chrystal L. Prather

      Hey then you didn't do your homework. He did this out of the kindness of his heart with his own money and because this is called humanity. Don't get mad stop being a hater on children. *EYE ROLL*

      May 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • David

      10k??!!! for a PPL? please tell me you are joking...i spent about 4500.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  71. Saywhatyoumean

    Good to see kids being inspired to become something other than toilet cleaners (good one Newt!!!). I hope they get the needed funding to continue.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  72. bibleverse1

    Once a man knows he can fly he cannot be persuaded to stand still.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:13 am |