Dream job takes Hutches to the sky

Many people have dreams in which they can fly, usually floating through the air sans plane.

Keizer’s James Hutches dreamt of flying since he was 12 years old. 

Beginning in November he can wed his love of flying with his love of teaching when he takes on a new position as professional aviation instructor at the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC)’s Aviation Program at Salem’s McNary Field airport.

Students will experience a variety of careers in the aviation industry. Working alongside industry professionals, students will have the opportunity to earn licensure as an airplane pilot, an aircraft maintenance technician or a drone pilot. The program has many local industry partners as well as partnerships with national companies such as Alaska Airlines and Garmin. Students with an interest in flying, building, or repairing planes or drones will gain experience and certification in the CTEC Aviation program.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools purchased a hanger for $1.8 million at the airport for the program. Remodeling of the hanger for CTEC’s purpose is ongoing. 

Hutches will be one of four instructors. He will focus on airmanship and piloting. Other instructors will teach aviation maintenance, drones and a teacher of English and Science geared toward the science of flight, communications and the writing skills used most in the aviation world.

Hutches announced his career change before the Keizer Chamber of Commerce this week. He just ended his tenure as board president of the Chamber. He will end a 10-year career as a financial advisor for Country Financial out of his Keizer office.

“I will miss the relationships and watching my client’s families grow and change over the years,” said Hutches.

Teaching is not new for him. His college years were focused on science education, though he didn’t certify to teach in college, he gravitated to teaching roles. 

“I loved teaching home insurance classes to first-time homebuyers and financial literacy in schools throughout the Willamette Valley,” Hutches said.

A volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol, he teaches aerospace and aviation cadets. He served on the Industry Advisory Committee for the Drone and Robotics. “When it was announced that they were morphing the program into a full aviation program, I knew I had to be part of it,” he said.

A love of flying started at age 12 when Hutches’ uncle, an airline pilot, took him on his first flight. “I was instantly hooked,” Hutches said. “I spent hour upon hour at my local airport just watching planes.” He flew solo when he was 16, even before  he had a driver’s license.

“My dad had to drive me to the airport so I could fly the first time,” he added. 

He finished his pilot’s license shortly after graduating from Harding University in Arkansas.

Hutches is a private pilot working on advanced and instructor ratings. Though he does not own his plane—yet—he does fly Civil Air Patrol airplanes often. He manages air operations for search and rescue, disaster relief and homeland security missions.

The CTEC program will teach junior and senior high school students an array of aviation knowledge including airmanship, aircraft and avionics maintenance.

The aviation program at Salem Airport is housed in a 60,000 square foot hangar, which will allow students hands-on access to airplanes, full motion and advanced flight simulators. 

“They will be able to use what they learn to move into jobs as airline, business or cargo pilots, aviation maintenance techs and drone photography pilots,” said Hutches.

Salem-Keizer will be the second school district in Oregon with an aviation program, the other is in Hillsboro. A few community colleges in the state also have such a program.

James proposed to his wife Sara while flying a friend’s plane. “We haven’t had much of a chance to fly together as a family (including children Everett and Hannah), but I am looking forward to doing more of that,” he said.

Hutches will have the career of his dreams when he begins teaching in November. He hopes to impart the love of flying and piloting to his students.

“Students will be able to move right into several new airline programs that are training pilots as fast as they can,” Hutches said. “I am excited to see these students get the aviation bug and go out and become leaders in the aviation industry.”