A program created by two pilots from Columbus, Ohio, has helped to get more than 2,000 kids and many of their parents excited about aviation.
Called Youth Aviation Adventure (YAA), the program began nine years ago with a curriculum based on the requirements for the Boy Scout aviation merit badge. Over the years, more items have been added, expanding the program’s outreach beyond scouts. At its last event, there were 477 people, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, kids from the general community and parents, says Dan Kiser, who, with Steve Wathen, founded the program.
The goal of the founders is to duplicate this “very successful” program in cities across the United States, Kiser says.
When the program began, Kiser and Wathen put on the events themselves. As attendance grew, there soon were more kids showing up than two teachers could handle. Today, more than 100 pilots and other aviation enthusiasts help with the program.
One of the original people who stepped up to help was professional pilot Rick Buergel, who says he saw becoming involved in YAA as an opportunity to promote flying as a career for young people. Another original helper, Rick Hunt, became involved when he saw how enthusiastic the boys in his scout troop were about the program.
In addition to the people who have donated their expertise, YAA could not have grown without having an appropriate facility at which to stage its events, Kiser says. “The Ohio State University Airport, in Columbus, with its large hangars, many classrooms and extensive ramp space, has been the perfect home for the program,” he says.
YAA is a perfect way to help fulfill two of the airport’s missions — education and reaching out to the community, says Doug Hammon, airport director. In addition to its buildings and space, OSU Airport donates equipment and the services of many of its staff to assure that each YAA program is a first-class event, Kiser notes.
YAA also works closely with EAA Chapter 9 through its Young Eagles co-coordinator, Chuck Hoisington. In addition to Chapter 9’s other Young Eagles rallies, Hoisington schedules a rally at OSU Airport for both semiannual YAA programs. “Without the kids that YAA attracted to its most recent program, Chapter 9 would not have reached its total of 137 kids flown on that day,” he says.
YAA also enjoys the support of the Columbus Fire Department and Columbus Police Department, Kiser says. The fire department donates an airport crash truck and a firefighter to explain its operation to the kids. The police department donates a helicopter and its pilot, who talks to the kids about how helicopters are used in law enforcement.
HOW IT WORKS
YAA programs take participants through nine stations. At each station, two or more leaders, nearly all of them pilots, lead the kids in a discussion of their station’s topic. Besides the fire and police department stations, there are stations on preflight procedures, aerodynamics, instrumentation, airport surface operations, the life of a professional pilot, aircraft power plants and a “Jeopardy” style game, complete with buzzers.
One of the reasons for YAA’s popularity is the realistic teaching aids that are used, Kiser says. For example, the preflight, aerodynamics and police helicopter stations use actual aircraft. At the instrumentation station, leaders pass around real aircraft instruments for the kids to handle. The powerplants station uses a cutaway jet engine as a teaching aid. For the airport operations station, which is held in a location that has a view of the entire airport, a handheld radio is variously tuned to ATIS, ground control and the tower so the kids can hear live communications and then see what the planes being communicated with do next.
When the program is over, Boy Scouts earn an aviation merit badge, while Girl Scouts have satisfied some of the requirements for three of their badges. All participants also receive an embroidered YAA patch, and “everyone has had a good time,” Kiser says.
“Youth Aviation Adventure is an outstanding program that fits perfectly with Scouting,” says Ron Green, an executive with the Boy Scouts. “It introduces young people to new career and hobby interests and an activity that encourages skill development, discipline, safety and learning, all while being fun and exciting. I am confident that as a result of this unique scouting and aviation collaboration, several scouts will pursue an interest in the field of aviation.”
Becky Sides, Girl Scout program manager, likes YAA because of how it allows older girls who may be interested in an aviation career to get a firsthand look at what such a career might be like and because it helps spark an interest in science in younger girls.
YAA makes a special effort to attract women pilots to its programs as teachers to provide role models for girls, Kiser says. “An extra effort is made to attract women who fly for a living,” he notes. At its most recent program, three women were teachers and a fourth was an administrator.