How a flight school in Salinas is keeping kids out of trouble

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It is Fleet Week in San Francisco and making another appearance this year will be Team Oracle and legendary stunt pilot Sean Tucker. 

But when he’s not performing high-flying stunts over San Francisco, Tucker is helping young people steer clear of trouble by teaching them to fly. 

High above the Salinas Valley, 17-year-old Edgar Villalobos is at the controls of the Oracle Extra Stunt Plane. 

His mentor and teacher is renowned aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, founder of the Bob Hoover Academy. 

“We’re creating hope in these kids, we’re creating self esteem in these kids and it’s transformative how they change into productive citizens,” said Tucker. 

Funded by Tucker in partnership with the Monterey County Office of Education, the Bob Hoover Academy is an alternative school tucked away in a corner of the Salinas Airport. 

It combines science, technology, engineering, math and the power of flight to change lives. 

Salinas can be a tough neighborhood, says Tucker. 

“You rise yourself above the earth, you rise yourself above your problems and by taking control of that stick, you’re taking control of your life,” said Tucker. 

On this day, with Tucker in the instructor’s seat, the young pilot would take control of the stick and fly upside down as his classmates, watching from a companion plane, have decided to pursue careers in aviation. 

“I would never have thought that i would be flying a plane myself but now I feel like anything is possible,” said student Edgar Villalobos. 

“It never crossed my mind that i would by studying aviation, I didn’t know anything about airplanes but now I love it,” said student Maria Rodrigues. 

“Our teacher says that if we’re in a gang, he doesn’t want us in the program, if wants us to think about flight and flight only,” said student Isaac Leyva. 

A teacher who has spent a lifetime thinking about and flying airplanes like the Smithsonian-bound Oracle Challenger, Tucker will once again be performing alongside the Blue Angels during Fleet Week. 

“That is the first time we get to light that spark in those kids and to see their faces light up when we taxi back is such a reward,” said Tucker. 

Also the National Chairman of the Young Eagles Program, Tucker and other volunteer pilots have taken thousands of kids for their first airplane ride. 

He says the Bob Hoover Academy is his way of giving something back to the community. 

“These kids are just trying to survive and when you’re trying to survive, it’s hard to dream and the academy allows a student a safe place to push their boundaries, academically in their minds and spiritually in their hearts,” Tucker said. 

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