Growing the next generation


We all remember our first flight — the feeling of seeing the world from a completely different perspective, the freedom of controlling an aircraft through the three dimensions of flight, the opportunity to make the world a smaller place by expanding our realm of possibilities.Touch&Go15

No matter what aspect of flying motivates us to learn how to fly, we all enjoy the challenges and entertainment that aviation provides.

Because of the experiences aviation brings to my life, I’ve made it my goal to share the thrill of flight with others. Through a variety of ways, I have been able to volunteer my time and dedicate my passion as a vehicle to inspire others to explore the multitude of opportunities in the aviation industry.

As you probably know, the aviation industry is actively trying to recruit young people to get involved and sustain the viability of the field for the next generation. With reports that nearly 30% of employees in the aviation industry became eligible to retire last year, it is absolutely dire that we have fresh faces in the field to take over.

Most people don’t realize the abundance and variety of career opportunities that exist in the aviation industry. People are needed in every aspect of the field — from the more intuitive positions like pilots, controllers, mechanics, fixed base operators, and engineers, to the not-so-obvious airport managers and the like. The aviation industry allows candidates to find employment opportunities that suit their unique needs and talents, while combining a passion that can rival very few other industries.

Like most industries right now, aviation is suffering from the worldwide economic turmoil, which is something we will recover from in due time. However, finding enough people to take over these jobs when the economy does return is not so easy.

The only way the world of aviation will be successful is if we all do what we can — no matter how much or how little — to help out. Whether it’s participating in an organization like the Young Eagles, providing financial assistance to youth groups, or simply answering basic questions about flight training to an airport visitor, we can and should do our part to increase interest in aviation.

Participating in programs like AOPA’s Project Pilot, EAA’s Young Eagles, Youth Aviation Adventure, Civil Air Patrol, Build-A-Plane, and the FAA’s Aviation Career Exploratory (ACE) Camps help grow and enhance the aviation and aerospace industry.

These programs help instill the passion we all have for aviation in our industry’s newcomers, and provide support in the most difficult and stressful times for people. If you don’t believe me, just read the numerous stories of individuals who have become pilots or work in the industry because of their experiences with one of these programs. Not everyone will walk away with a pilot’s license because of a Young Eagles flight, but many will walk away with a positive experience about aviation.

As the former national spokesman for EAA’s Vision of Eagles Program, it was my job to promote aviation career opportunities to young people around the country. As an expansion to that role, I started working with the FAA in 2004 promoting the benefits of aviation to mainstream America. The experiences I have had, taking Young Eagles for their very first flight and speaking to hundreds of thousands of students about the aviation industry, have been remarkable. I’m very thankful for these opportunities, and proud of the impact that it has had on others. By assisting with these types of programs, you also will experience similar types of joys. Just ask anyone who has received a thank you note from an individual they took for their first flight and now they are involved in aviation. It’s a great achievement.

Perhaps my greatest achievement is co-founding, building and executing the DreamLaunch Tour. Sponsored by my alma mater, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, DreamLaunch has become the FAA’s nationwide tour dedicated to educating high school students about career opportunities in the aviation industry, while, at the same time, motivating students to follow their dreams and passions in life.

Now in its fifth year, DreamLaunch has visited hundreds of schools, and educated countless students on the opportunities in the aviation industry that they may not be aware of. This past year was our most successful yet, as the tour visited schools from Central Florida all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. Building on that success, we’re gearing for a tour that stops at even more schools next year. You can learn more about the tour at:

I urge all of you to take action and influence the next generation of aviation. Whether it’s kids or adults, we need to keep our industry growing, even when we are presented with the economic issues affecting every company in our industry today. Everything we do can — and will —make a difference.

What happens in the next 20 to 30 years of flight will be completely up to the legacy created by the current generation leading one of the nation’s most vital segments of our economy.

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