GRAPEVINE, Texas – Freshman Stephen Higginbotham spent part of his summer at Aviation Challenge, a unique military and aviation experience in Huntsville, Alabama. Higginbotham hopes to join the Air Force and enjoyed his experience so much last year that he went again this year.
Aviation Challenge, a division of Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, is described as a “weeklong program promoting science, technology, engineering, and math, while training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on teamwork, leadership, and decision-making.”
“We did simulator missions, simulator training. We got a little bit of wilderness survival training, and we did patrol missions on the ground,” Higginbotham said. “The best part is escape and evade. At the end of your primary patrol mission, you have to get out of the Aviation Challenge compound via the woods. Basically, it’s like 200 yards of crawling through the mud. It’s so much fun.”
According to a press release from Aviation Challenge, Higginbotham “was part of the Aviation Challenge Mach II Program, a program specifically designed for trainees who have an interest in military aviation and the mechanics of flight.” Higginbotham said, “Since this was my second year, it was just building on skills that I had established the first year. I did better in the simulator missions and on the ground.”
While in Huntsville, Higginbotham was given the chance to fly simulators of F/A 18 fighter jets and of various bombers. Higginbotham said his favorite mission was one, “where there were three people in bombers and the rest of our team was in fighters and the fighters had to protect the bombers while they went in and bombed the sites.” During the mission, he got stuck with an enemy plane on his tail. “I kept calling to these people, ‘Hey, I’ve got one on my tail. Come on. Help me.’ And no one’s coming so I figure to heck with this. I fly around him, shoot him down, and continue with the mission.”
“Aviation Challenge has its own compound in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s not a military base—it’s specifically for Aviation Challenge—but it’s kind of designed that way,” Higginbotham said. Just as if they were in the military, the trainees woke up early and had to organize their quarters everyday before breakfast.
Higginbotham said, “If you like aviation and military-type things, then Aviation Challenge would probably be good for you. It wouldn’t be the best for someone who likes to stay indoors because most of the things we do are outside.”
“Over 600,000 trainees have graduated from Space Camp since its opening in Huntsville in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger,” Aviation Challenge said. “Last year, children and teachers from all 50 states and 58 international locations attended.”
To see this article as it originally appeared in the Grapevine Faith RAWR, click here.