by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2018 issue
In my 30-plus years as a pilot, I’ve met a lot of people who say they always wanted to learn to fly, but never did. When I ask them why, they often tell me they never really believed it was possible.
AOPA’s You Can Fly program is helping to change that story.
We’re showing young people that there’s a place for them in aviation, and giving them the tools to get there. We’re showing pilots and aviation enthusiasts that flying can be more affordable and accessible than they thought. And we’re even showing lapsed pilots that it’s never too late to get back in the air.
To help students discover the possibilities available in the world of aviation, the You Can Fly program is delivering a rigorous high school aviation science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum with a range of options for aspiring aviators. Through the curriculum, students are exposed to piloting, aerospace engineering, and drones. We’ve already field-tested the ninth-grade program with more than 700 students, and those courses will be available to all high schools during the 2018-2019 school year. Additional courses for grades 10 through 12 will become available in each of the next three years – all at no cost to the schools.
When it’s time to start flight training, we’re helping students of all ages find great schools and instructors. Through the Flight Training Experience Survey and Awards, we’re identifying and recognizing training providers that are doing it right. If you’ve taken lessons within the past year – whether as a primary student or for an advanced rating – we want your feedback (www.aopa.org/ftsurvey).
Once you’ve earned your certificate, we’re finding ways to make it more affordable to keep flying. Through our Flying Club Finder (www.aopa.org/flyingclubfinder), we’re helping pilots connect to hundreds of existing flying clubs across the country.
When most pilots start flying, they never plan to stop. But sometimes life gets in the way. For pilots who have been out of the cockpit for a while, we’re making it easier to come back. The three-hour Rusty Pilots seminar offers a refresher to help lapsed pilots complete a flight review. More than 5,000 pilots are back to active status after completing our program. Sound like you? Sign up for a seminar this summer and we’ll have you back in the left seat in no time (www.aoap.org/rustypilots).
Through our You Can Fly initiatives and charitable programs, we’re helping redefine what’s possible. It’s up to us to provide encouragement, support, and tools to help every enthusiast pursue their aviation dreams. These days, when someone tells me they wish they could learn to fly, my response is simple: You Can Fly!