Wright Flight Program

Wright Flight

The Wright Flight program is dedicated to “helping kids reach new heights” in both their classrooms and their lives. Wright Flight is a motivational program that teaches today’s youth how to set goals and achieve them. Since its inception in 1986, over 20,000 students have graduated from the program. What motivated them? The chance to fly.


We partner with local schools to identify and recruit students in grades 6 through 12 that want to participate in the program. To participate, each student is required to:

– Make a contract with their teacher to reach a specific academic goal
– Remain drug, alcohol and tabacco free during the program
– Complete a course in aviation history, including passing a written exam

If the student meets their goal and passes the curriculum they are rewarded with a Flyday. At the Flydays, each graduate gets about a 30 minute flight and the chance to fly the airplane. They do not just get a ride; they will take the controls as they would in a typical “discovery flight.” After the flight, each student gets a picture of themselves and the pilot in front of the airplane, as well as a Wright Flight T-shirt.

Program Success
This program has had remarkable success teaching kids the value of setting goals and motivating them to follow through to reach those goals. It motivates not only kids that are struggling, but gifted kids as well. Wright Flights receives letters from students and teachers each year thanking the organization and praising the effectiveness of the program. Following are just a few quotes from some of the educators.

“Participating in the Wright Flight Program is the dream of every 6th grade gifted student! Year, after year, students in younger grades see the photos and student projects that stem from this. They cannot wait until it is their opportunity!” – Lorelei Barrett, Gifted Education Specialist, Twin Peaks Elementary School

“I could give you statistics about the incredible success rate, which is always in the high 90% to 100% range, but to me, anecdotal accounts show the true impact that Wright Flight can have on student lives. Eddie was in another 5th grade class but he came to me for Social Studies, which included Wright Flight. His parents were divorcing and Eddie simply would not come to school at all or he came more than two hours late. He never completed any homework and rarely attempted class assignments. I talked to his teacher and she felt that a good contract goal for Eddie would be to finish 50% of his assignments. Eddie did not believe me when I explained that he would fly a plane, so he had a slow start, but he was never absent on a Thursday because that is when I taught Wright Flight. As the lessons progressed, it all became more real to him and Eddie started asking if he could stay in at lunch recess to complete unfinished assignments. He also wanted to rewrite his contract to say 70% completion, since he felt that 50% was too low. He easily passed the History test, worked very hard to take the BOLDFACE test more than once until he passed, and he met his contract for assignment completion well above his 70% goal. Obviously, all of this effort required that he be in school so his attendance rate improved as well. Wright Flight is a great behavioral motivator!” – Shirley Chandler, Lineweaver Elementary School

“I have countless stories of how Wright Flight has motivated these 120+ students to achieve academic success. I often wonder how different these students’ lives would be without the help, guidance and motivation that is offered in the Wright Flight program. Three stories that truly touch on the spirit of the Wright Flight program are: One year, I had a student who struggled endlessly to learn new math concepts. He often gave up easily and was frustrated when others tried to help him. In the fall of 2010, he joined my Wright Flight program and we began setting academic goals. We discussed his difficulties in math and the “D” average he was earning. He decided that by the conclusion of the third quarter he would bring his math grade up to a “B” average. He worked hard in class and often stayed late after school to get extra help in math. By the end of our third quarter of school, not only had he met his goal but he had exceeded it and had earned an “A-” in my math class. I was proud to see how this success had motivated him, and to see him fly an airplane on Fly Day….” – Chris Garrison, Wright Flight Teacher, Senita Valley Elementary

“…What I do have are many examples of how the Wright Flight program has turned around students who had been struggling either educationally or behaviorally. This year was no exception. Eddie is in my 5th grade class and is extremely smart. He is in the GATE program (gifted and talented), and I have known him and his mother for a few years. His mother volunteers at the school and is involved in the PTA. She had been talking with me about the Wright Flight program since I took it over and she was requesting Eddie be a participant. I felt like he was a good candidate. The issues we were having with Eddie this year is he is easily distracted, but more importantly, he is easily influenced by his peers. He disrupts the class trying to impress his friends. He was often off-task, and just wasn’t working to potential. His scores on test and assignments were at the C to D level. Meeting with his mom, disciplinary actions, strategic placement in the classroom, tutoring other students, talking about Wright Flight as an elite program for serious students, and many other strategies were just not working. Finally, 2 weeks before it started, his mother and I decided he was not going to be a part of Wright Flight. He just hadn’t earned it and we had many other candidates who were doing their best in school. When we told him and he broke down and cried. He never thought we would not let him go. Reality set in and he promised to turn it around. He was very sincere and we agreed to give him another chance. Since then he has been a new student in the classroom. He has been showing his academic ability and has been a model student. He won the school-wide 5th grade science fair with an experiment on the flight of paper airplanes. He found the mean distance various paper airplanes flew and recorded the data on a bar graph. I believe the Wright Flight program turned Eddie’s year around this year, as it does hundreds of kids every year.” – Geoff Keppel, Roberts-Naylor K-8

“Today, twenty-two students from Academy of Tucson graduated from the Wright Flight History Program. What requirements did these students meet in order to graduate? Each of these students passed the Wright Flight History test, met their academic goal for the first quarter, and pledged to stay drug-free. The Fly Day graduation event, held at the Tucson Executive Terminal, was an incredible opportunity for these students. One graduating student stands out; George is a student that struggles with depression. As he was approaching the airplane for his turn to fly, he wanted to leave and go home. A student that was partnered to fly along with George encouraged him to give it a try. George did fly! After his flight, George stood about ten feet tall as he walked back to the terminal. Three additional students participated in our school’s Wright Flight History program but didn’t meet their academic goals. These students have the opportunity to graduate from the program when they achieve their academic goal later this year and then may attend a Fly Day.” – Jean Rhoades, Middle school teacher, Wright Flight Advisor, The Academy of Tucson.

Program Cost
Volunteer ground crews, pilots and teachers help keep the cost down and are critical to the program’s success. The average cost per student is about $150-$175, which includes the Aviation History course materials, t-shirt, photograph, contract, and Flyday flight costs.