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How to Get More People Excited About Aviation?

This is the thought that runs through my head more than probably anything else in my life, except maybe how much I love my family…maybe.  I intentionally made the title a question because I don’t think I have the answer, nor do I think there is “AN”  answer.  For that matter there may not be an answer at all.

For me it was a father that loved airplanes and would take me with him to airshows, airports, The Boneyard, etc.  The interesting thing is that he took some of my other siblings too, so why I am the only one that caught the bug?  Is it something inherent in who I am?  Or did I just hit the right events at the right times in my formative years?

Who knows?

There are so many obvious answers out there that come to mind.  Get people to airshows, take cool pictures or cool videos, show them the cool places you can take a plane, and the list goes on and on.

Personally, I think the absolute best way to get people excited about airplanes and aviation, is to get them in a small airplane.  I know nothing changed my perspective more than getting in that little plane for the very first time.  Even as someone who loved airplanes the first time I got in a 172 I was never going to be the same.

It may have been getting in the plane, but as I think about it, it is more likely that it was taking the controls for the very first time that really made the difference.  It was insane to me that I got to take the controls within minutes of getting into the plane for the very first time.  I know I didn’t do anything crazy or groundbreaking, but to feel an airplane maneuver through the air at your own bidding is incomparable with anything else I have ever done.

Since that first flight I have accrued only about 50 hours in small planes, but about 1500 as a navigator in the C-130.  I love everything about my job, and would gladly do it until they kick me out, but if I am really getting down to the heart of it, I think I cherish those 50 hours in small single engine planes even more.

Maybe that sounds crazy, and maybe I am lying to myself, but there really is something indescribable about leaving the earth, and then safely returning with your hands and feet at the controls.  Flying is so inherently unnatural for a human being, that successfully accomplishing it is difficult to put into words.  It is amazing, and incredible, and empowering, and liberating, and a dozen other adjectives at least, but there is seriously not enough adjectives to do it justice.

So where am I going with this little rant?  Simply put, we need to get more butts in the seats.  You have to get people at the controls, and up in the air to really light that spark inside of them.  It is true that some people will hate it, and that is fine, but if we want more people to care about aviation, and to put in the time to learn the aspects of the industry that make it so valuable, they need to be at the controls.

For many people flying has become as much a part of life as driving a car.  I recently had someone tell me they actually spend more time in airplanes that they do in their own car.  This individual was a fellow avgeek so his passion is pretty well secured, but when something becomes run of the mill, it is not easy to create the excitement and passion that are necessary to create valuable change.

Now many of us don’t have our own planes, or in some cases may not even be pilots, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get more people at the controls.

The first thought that comes to my mind is the EAA Young Eagles program.  If you are not familiar with the program I would encourage you to visit the site and learn more.  But, in short, it is a program that gives kids and teens the opportunity to get their first flight in a small aircraft for free to try to ignite that spark early.  According to their website they have given more than 2 million kids their first flights in the 27 years that the program has existed.  It is also supported by the likes of Harrison Ford and Jimmy Graham who regularly posts pictures on Instagram of the kids he takes up in his plane.

If you can’t take the kids up yourself, you can donate to the organization, or you can even just educate kids and teens that the program exists.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but lack of education is one of the biggest things hurting the industry.  We have to educate kids about all of the different paths and opportunities that there are in the industry.  Some of which don’t even involve flying, though my favorite ones all do.

June 2, 2019 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Alamo Area Aerospace Academy Providing Education and Critical Training/Experience

A month ago I wrote about an education program that Airbus sponsors to help provide education as well as hands on training at the Airbus Lycée.  That article led to a couple of pretty in-depth discussions on LinkedIn that are actually still going.

The general consensus of those discussions was that the aviation industry as a whole needs to do a better job promoting themselves, and all of the various options that exist for jobs in aviation.  I for one think we also need to create more programs that provide better opportunities for young people to get training, and the all important “work experience”.

I came across another great program that is not only fostering aviation, but in some cases is leading to actual jobs.

The Alamo Area Aerospace Academy is one of four vocational training schools in the San Antonio area that puts students on the fast track to careers in various industries.  The Aerospace Academy was developed out of a need for workers at Lockheed Martin.  As their workforce was retiring they needed a pipeline for training young, new employees.  So they worked with the local government, community college, aerospace companies, and school districts to develop a program to get kids excited about aviation, and get them the necessary training.

The program lasts two years and includes a paid internship between the students’ junior and senior years.  During the school year the classes provide hands on training and experience while still earning students credit towards high school graduation, and even a good chunk of an associate degree.

This is exactly the type of program that we need more of in every industry, and especially in aviation.  It is far easier to get excited about education when you see the practical application of it.  The reality is that college is not for everyone, and that training like this can be far more valuable for many people than a four-year degree would ever be.

Apparently the program is creating the desired results as Lockheed Martin estimates that 20% of their direct hire workforce comes from the Aerospace Academy.  And, as I already mentioned, three other industries have developed similar academies to train their own workforce.

While this is not necessarily the right approach for everyone, or every industry, we need to develop more programs just like this.  Youth are ready to get excited about a career well before they reach college, and aviation needs to be there when they are developing that excitement.  If we want to attract the best and the brightest, we need to get them hooked earlier than we are right now.

What other programs could we create to help get young people excited about aviation, and prepare them for potential careers in the industry?

March 10, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.