Aviation Adventures, a non-profit organization designed for aviation education and career development for women and disadvantaged youth, especially girls, grew out of a simple request for more.
In 2010 Terry Carbonell served as the start and terminus liaison for the Air Race Classic (ARC), an annual women’s 2,500-mile cross-country race. Carbonell met with the Mobile Sports Authority Director Coach Bud Ratliff about a three-hour youth program planned for the 2011 race terminus in Mobile, Alabama.
The Air Race Classic typically offers a day or two of youth education events at the start and finish of the race each year. Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other local groups are invited to participate.
“Coach Bud Ratliff said he wanted more for his kids, which were the kids of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama,” Carbonell recalled. “He set up a meeting for me with Inger Anderson and her staff of directors (at the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama.)
“At some point during the meeting, the program evolved,” she continued. “I unilaterally made the decision to host the six-month program, realizing that might mean that I do it on my own. While the ARC did not disapprove of the plan, they did not have the woman power to run the program. I took that on myself and with a little funding from ARC and quite a bit from my own pocket, the program was a go.”
Carbonell and Anderson scheduled monthly events to run from January to July in 2011. The No Limits Aviation Program won the Boys & Girls Club National Award for Excellence for Education and Career Development.
“The program was a hit with the girls and parents. Many parents came to me afterward and told me of the positive changes in their daughters,” said Carbonell. “Inger recognized it too and wanted to make a year round program for a smaller number of girls.”
The program introduces girls to aerodynamics, geography, navigation, communications, meteorology, and aviation careers. On career day, the girls met Bee Haydu, a WASP who talked to them about her flying experience in World War II, and UPS Pilot Terri Donner, who gave a tour of an Airbus. The girls who completed the classes went on to have museum tours, fly radio-controlled airplanes, and experience a first flight through the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.
“Aviation is fun,” Carbonell said. “Anytime you can disguise learning as fun you have a home run. I am not a teacher or standard adult figure and neither are the cadre of volunteers who donate their time, money, and expertise. We are mentors and I think kids can willingly or unwittingly learn more from a mentor because we are not seen as authority figures.”
In 2012 requests for the program came in from other groups, so Carbonell partnered with Marie Grein, a teacher and pilot, to create a workbook, the Youth and Aviation Adventure Guide, which is used by organizations in nine states.
In 2014 Aviation Adventures became a registered non-profit 501(c) (3) corporation. Not to be confused with AviationAdventures.com, which has flight schools in Virginia, AviationAdventures.org serves to educate youth about aviation and it has only one airplane for flight training. Carbonell is its president. Other officers are Vice President Mary Wunder, Secretary/Treasurer Ellen Herr, and Scholarship Chair Marie Grein.
In 2015 the organization acquired a Cessna 150 (N6100G), known as “Roxie the Red Plane,” for low-cost or free flight training. Avidyne Corporation donated a GNS480. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation awarded the organization a $10,000 Giving Back Grant.
Fifteen of the girls from the 2011 program have become leaders in the South Alabama Boys & Girls Club. Each year since then, a group of the girls has traveled to the Air Race Classic terminus. They go to cheer primarily for Team 11, the team made up of Carbonell and Herr.
In 2012 the girls showed up in Batavia, Ohio, in 2013, they drove to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2014 they met the racers in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, in 2015 they cheered the racers at Fairhope, Alabama, and in 2016 they met the racers in Daytona, Florida where they were hosted by Embry-Riddle of Daytona.
As of June 2015, 100 girls had graduated from the No Limits Aviation Program.
In 2016, the Boys & Girls Clubs in Lee County, Florida, participated in the program. As part of its career day, the students learned about airport operations, marketing, flying, instruction, aircraft mechanics, piloting, and enjoyed a demonstration by the Lee County Airport Security bomb-sniffing dogs. The EAA chapter based at DeLand Municipal Airport gave Young Eagles Flights.
“There are so many opportunities in this country and kids from the underserved communities have not yet figured that out,” said Carbonell. “The No Limits Program teaches kids that there are opportunities that they can take advantage of — there are no limits to what they can do. Kids come out of the program with a sense of accomplishment and a greater self-esteem. They learn the value of school and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in school and they see how it applies to real life. They also know that there are jobs for them in the aviation field.”
“We are not really teaching aviation, we are using aviation to teach about opportunity,” she continued. “Kids see that there is a bigger world out there and they can be part of it.”