by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2018 issue
How today’s youth will fall in love with flying!
Growing up as a young boy in Minnesota, free time for me meant riding my bike to the airport and offering to wash airplanes in exchange for a little free flight time. I was always fascinated by aviation, but it was that hands-on experience – along with having great mentors – that made me fall in love with flying.
But times have changed, and it’s not so easy for kids to hang out at airports bumming rides. In a post-September 11 era and digital age, the way new pilots are discovering aviation is evolving, and we must evolve with the times.
The GA pilot population has been declining for nearly four decades and we’ve reached a critical point. Something needs to be done and AOPA is working hard to turn things around and secure the freedom to fly for the pilots of tomorrow.
The AOPA high school aviation-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum is one part of this plan. We’re reaching an audience of young people who might never have imagined a career in aviation, and we’re showing them that it’s possible.
Educators play a crucial role in inspiring and guiding young people. So, we’re also introducing hundreds of teachers and administrators to GA and giving them the skills and tools necessary to shape the minds of young aviators. Each year, these education leaders have an opportunity to participate in a unique aviation STEM symposium organized by AOPA to learn from industry experts and each other. This year, the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium hosted by UPS, will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, November 5 and 6. For more information on the curriculum and STEM symposium, go online (www.aopa.org/highschools).
AOPA is also proud to support other passionate aviators who have stepped up to introduce and welcome a diverse, younger audience into the fold in new and exciting ways. We sponsored the Young Aviators Fly-In at Triple Tree Aerodrome in South Carolina in June, and some of our staff even flew themselves out to join in the fun.
Aviation has a powerful legacy and we can all do our part to honor that legacy by welcoming new pilots into our ranks – it’s the best way to ensure GA will be around long after we’ve hung up our wings.