The aviation world is an incredibly small, close-knit community, where it seems everyone knows everyone or at least knows someone else who knows someone. To this end, I’ve written in this space about an aircraft that connected a friend and I across the country years apart or about how various connections led to job opportunities I’ve been able to leverage for my own career advancement. As you likely know we face a massive shortage of aviation professionals as we move into the future. This isn’t breaking news, it’s just a fact of life.
Boeing projects the need for more than 800,000 pilots and 760,000 technicians over the next twenty years. That is an incredible set of statistics when you think about it, and those are only the most visible fields – pilots and mechanics. Of course there are so many more support vocations in aviation from airport management to flight school operators, airline ground handling staff to aviation fuelers. The list of aviation jobs goes on and on, too much for me to list here.
With these growing needs there is something that each of us in the general aviation world can do to help. It’s simple really, all you need to do is decide to make a difference, big or small it doesn’t matter. Anything you can do to help will make a difference, you may not have the means to donate an aircraft to an aviation maintenance program, but maybe you could spend a couple hours a month being a mentor to a student pilot. Here are a couple of ideas, but again, there are limitless opportunities for you to help the future of aviation.
- Be a student pilot mentor! This one is likely the most simple and the easiest way you can help the future of aviation. At any given time there are thousands of individuals of all ages learning to fly or pursing a career in aviation maintenance. Find a local flight school, flight instructor or maintenance academy and offer to volunteer as a mentor for a student. You will be paired with a student who you can help! Often times a student’s flight instructor is their primary link to aviation and their primary example. While this is good, it is also limiting, it takes more than one ingredient to make the best recipes, similarly a non-instructor mentor can make a great impact on a student pilot. Maybe it’s the occasional flight as your passenger to a local airport for breakfast that keeps the mentee’s energy up, or maybe it’s the phone call to discuss a learning plateau where you can relate and share similar experiences with encouraging words to help the student. Regardless of what the methodology is, a student with a mentor has the opportunity to go a long way, and the cost to you is what?A new friend in aviation? Someone to fly with once they achieve their certificate, boy that’s a big burden, huh? Exactly!
- Fly Young Eagles with EAA! For the past year plus I have been working to set up an EAA Chapter at my local airport, where I work daily… Chapter 51 is now up and running in the initial growth stage and we’re getting ready for our first Young Eagles event on September 21, 2019 – it’s sure to be a great day! The Young Eagles program offers another great opportunity for pilots to give back to the future aviation. Since the program started in 1992 the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) Young Eagles program has provided more than 2 MILLION flight experiences for kids ages eight to seventeen! I’d be willing to bet a higher than average percentage of these kids went on to earn pilot licenses too… Often times pilots are looking for a reason to go flying, instead of trying to determine which of the same collection of airport restaurants to visit, consider getting involved with the local EAA chapter and donating your time and aircraft to provide some flight experiences for kids! It’s an extremely rewarding program for the volunteers!
- Volunteer with NIFA… The National Intercollegiate Flying Association organization is made up of member colleges and universities from across the country. I’ve shared pieces HERE and HERE about volunteering as a flight competition judge and the sentiment reimains the same now. Volunteering with NIFA allows you to help college-aged students who are poised for an aviation career, the actual next wave of aviation professionals. Ten years ago I was a college senior competing in NIFA and now I’m preparing to serve as the Chief Judge of the NIFA Region VII event in October. The commitment for this volunteering is limited to a weekend, typically the Saturday to assist with the landings competition. Competitors are judged in all aspects of their flying including each leg of the traffic pattern and their distance from a target line on the runway. Thus the need for a significant number of aviation-knowledgable judges. Other contests include a preflight competition where an aircraft is “bugged” by a mechanic, a navigation event where preflight planning to compared with an actual flight track, and many more events of similar competitive nature.
As you can see, regardless of how you volunteer or what you have to offer – your encouragement and experiences or your time and an aircraft, there is a way you can get involved and help the future of aviation. So please, take some time and help our tight-knit community that has given you so much during your time in aviation!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9