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A summer camp with airplanes

GRAND FORKS -- Sixteen-year-old Matt Adamson spent his Wednesday morning with his head in the clouds -- literally.

The Plymouth, Minn., native was flying a Cessna 172S aircraft with assistance from University of North Dakota flight instructor Jakee Stoltz, as part of the 29th annual UND International Aerospace Camp.

Taking place all this week, the camp invited high school juniors and seniors from all over the country who are interested in aerospace sciences to UND. The participants were treated just like UND students and given a chance to fly planes in the university's fleet.

"I really wasn't expecting it to be like this," Adamson said. "I thought I would just be riding in a plane."

Instead, Adamson and 26 other camp participants were allowed to control the airplanes they were riding in -- with guidance from their instructors of course. It's UND's way of giving high school students a taste of what it would be like to study aviation.

Before the young pilots could take to the skies, they spent time in lectures and flight simulators to gain a better understanding of the science of flying.

"There's quite a big difference between having goggles on in a simulator and actually flying," Stoltz said.

The Wednesday morning flight was the second one of the week for the camp participants. In addition to completing an introductory flight and an instrumental flight, they also got a chance to try their hand at a night flight and a cross-country flight.

Before takeoff, each camper and their flight instructor completed an aircraft inspection. Then it was up to the camper to radio to the control tower and request permission to take off.

"It was a lot of fun," Adamson said after he landed. "I was actually flying the plane for most of the flight."

Also included in the camp schedule were sessions on air traffic control, aviation management and unmanned aircraft systems, allowing students to hear about more than the piloting aspect of aerospace sciences.

Joe Merrion, 17, traveled from Chicago to attend the camp in hopes of gaining insight on what he wants to study in college.

"Before I got to camp, I hadn't really done anything with aviation," he said. "Now I'm debating if I want to be a pilot or go into air traffic control."

Merrion's flight partner from New York City, Dan McLaughlin, 17, was also happy to get the chance to see the ins and outs of aviation before arriving at a university.

Though the high school students spent time in the air learning to fly, Ken Polovitz, assistant dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace and camp director, said the real focus of the camp is to get students ready for higher education.

"We want to show them a real slice of college," Polovitz said.

During their stay on campus, the participants lived in residence halls, ate at the dining center and attended lectures and tutorial sessions. They also received tours of the campus and all of the school facilities.

This camp session is the first of two offered by UND this summer. The second session will begin July 8.