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DOAV Visits Gloucester High School

The Navy JROTC students at Gloucester High School boarded a different kind of floating vessel than they are familiar with – an airplane. The ICON A5 aircraft with the Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV) is a special type of airplane called an amphibian. This means it is capable of landing on runways like a traditional aircraft or on water similar to a boat. Today the plane was towed to the school on the back of a trailer as part of the DOAV’s “Introduction to Flight Program.”

Students were also able to try their hand on an authentic flight simulator that travels with the ICON A5. Utilizing three monitors that allow for a realistic view, the fledgling pilots used the simulator’s yoke, rudder pedals, and the throttle to practice takeoffs and landings. While the ripped jeans and hoodies of these teenagers are a far cry from the polished uniforms of airline pilots, several students were able to land the simulated Cessna 172 gently to the ground. Flight instruction was not the objective of the DOAV’s visit, but rather to inspire the next generation of Virginians to go into the aviation industry.

Several students at Gloucester High School are studying for the FAA’s Remote Pilot Certificate to fly drones commercially. Captain Norris Merkle, a Navy JROTC instructor with the program said that the experience in the flight simulator, “was particularly helpful for our new sUAS (drone) students in their understanding of airport signage, traffic patterns, and aircraft controls.” The event was used as a practice session for the drone pilot trainees to refine their techniques and to take pictures.

More information on the educational programs of the DOAV can be found at or by emailing

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