by Tori Hamby



Students at a Catholic high school aspiring to jump into a pilot’s seat one day can see if they have what it takes before even leaving the ground.

Christ the King Catholic High School, temporarily located in Mooresville, offers a pilot ground school course during the fall and spring semesters, taught by retired U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Bill Fountain. Future pilots study the use of navigation instruments, maps and charts and scientific concepts such as drag and lift inside the classroom.

“The ground school prepares a student to become a pilot,” Fountain said. “We cover everything from understanding how weather effects the way that you fly to different aerospaces. We show how the aerospace that Charlotte has is different from the aerospace around Concord.”

Students also can put some of their time logged working with flight instruments during class toward earning a private pilot’s license, Fountain said.

Fountain broke into aviation as a senior in the Mississippi State University Air Force ROTC program in 1965. He took part in the Air Force’s “flight indoctrination program,” which culled potential pilots from the pool of future officers and earned his “wings.”

Through a two-decade career with the Air Force – which included two tours in Vietnam – Fountain flew the F-4 Phantom, the two-seater fighter-bomber jet famous for its extensive use during the Vietnam War. Upon retirement in 1985, he went to work for Northrop Grumman, a Virginia-based aerospace and defense technology company, as a programming and marketing manager for another 20 years.

He moved to the Charlotte area in 2005 when he said he felt led to teach, but didn’t have a specific subject in mind. A bachelor’s degree in math and extensive flight experience were enough to land him a spot teaching math at Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s Military and Global Leadership Academy for six months.

During his time out of the Air Force, Fountain also became involved with the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. The organization, which consists of volunteers with strong backgrounds in aviation, acts as a kind of “Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of flying,” Fountain said.

It was through the Civil Air Patrol that Fountain started teaching the same kind of grounds school to 12- to 18-year-olds that he now teaches at Christ the King Catholic High School. He also flies CAP’s  Cessna 172, a small four-seat single engine plane, with the organization.

“That spurred by interest in teaching,” Fountain, who also teaches geometry, said. “I heard a lot of stories about how schools need better math teachers to keep kids from dropping out of school because they couldn’t understand math.”

Students taking the ground course – an elective built into their regular school schedules – have been able to take many field trips thanks to Fountain’s extensive aviation connections. U.S. Airways offered the class the opportunity to fly in its Airbus flight simulator in Charlotte. A trip to the Charlotte Air National Guard Base at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport allowed students to speak one-on-one with aviation professionals.

Dan Dolan, Christ the King Catholic High School principal, said the course brings diversity to the types of classes his school can offer to students.

“This course is consistent with everything we value as a school,” Dolan said. “It engages just about every subject we offer, is hands-on, requires students to develop critical-thinking skills and gives students the chance to explore a field most of us won’t encounter in a lifetime.”