There are many ways to introduce young people to the joy of flight. Jamail Larkins, a young man who found his way into aviation with the help of many people, has parlayed that help into a what looks to be a very promising aviation career. In this article, he explores some of the organizations with programs especially designed to get kids involved in aviation.
July 31, 2002
The media is filled with stories on how today's youth has gone bad. However, in our aviation industry there are thousands of young people fulfilling their dreams of learning to fly. In the process of learning how to build a wing, or earning a pilot's certificate, they have acquired self-esteem and an introduction into the many possibilities in the aviation industry.
During the past few decades, literately hundreds of youth programs centered on inspiring young adults have developed nationwide. The majority of these programs are small, local initiatives lead by motivated pilots. In this artlcle, I outline several of the larger programs for those interested in realizing their flying dream.
I realized I wanted to learn to fly shortly after I attended Space Camp in fifth grade at age 11. However, with no pilot in my family, or my family's immediate circle of friends, I never had the opportunity. I was a frequent visitor to the airlines and military bases, but never got close enough.
That all changed one spring day in 1996. During one of my routine explorations on the Internet, I ran into a CompuServe aviation chat forum. I posted a message asking for advice on how to get involved in aviation, and received a response from Mr. Jeff Bosonett (a Delta Airlines Captain). Mr. Bosonett informed me about part of one of the most successful aviation youth programs to date, EAA's Vision of Eagles Program.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has had aviation programs geared to youth for over 15 years. However, all of EAA's youth programs were collectively combined into one overall name, the EAA's
Vision of Eagles Program, in 1998.
The EAA Vision of Eagles Program is made of three main components: the residency programs, the field programs, and the educational programs. Each component has it's own goal and positive outcome.
EAA took its first group of Air Academy participants in 1984. Initially, all camp participants stayed at nearby university dorms and were shuttled daily to EAA's facilities. During the early years of the program, participants learned the same basic concepts still taught in the Air Academy today; however, the many years of experience EAA has gained from operating the Air Academy has produced a significantly more advanced program.
With contributions from many individuals and corporations, including a very generous grant from Mr. James Ray (an aviation enthusiast and former military pilot), EAA built the EAA Air Academy Lodge in 1998. Located on Pioneer Airport, across from EAA's headquarters, the Air Academy Lodge houses approximately 50 camp participants each session. The EAA Air Academy hosts six different summer camp sessions annually. Kids from all over the country come to Oshkosh, Wis., for a week at the longest-running aviation summer camp. The selection process is fairly rigorous, and all applicants have to complete an application, obtain two personal recommendations, and fill out a few other miscellaneous items. Camp participants can also get their local EAA chapter to sponsor up to half of their tuition cost through Young Eagle Points. (For each Young Eagle an EAA Chapter flies, they gain a Young Eagle point that can be used to assist with the cost of the Air Academy.)
EAA Primary Aviation Fun Camp
The first two sessions are the EAA Primary Aviation Fun Camp, for ages 12-13. This camp is mainly an introduction for young teenagers into the world of aviation. Activities include building kites and level 1 model rockets, tours of EAA's facilities, and an actual Young Eagles Flight.
EAA Aviation Intermediate Experience Camp
The second group of sessions are the EAA Aviation Intermediate Experience Camp, for ages 14-15. This camp provides teenagers with a lot more hands-on activities, including building model rockets and hot-air ballons, using flight simulators, and participating in the activities included in EAA's Primary Aviation Fun Camps.
EAA Advanced Leadership Camp
The third group of sessions are the EAA Advanced Leadership Camp, for ages 16-18. I had the opportunity to attend this camp two years ago, and I truly enjoyed the experience. I did actual aircraft construction (welding, sheet metal work, fabric, and covering), ground school, model rocketry, Young Eagle flights, team-building activities, and most importantly, had the opportunity to experience a part of the EAA AirVenture Fly-In. The most beneficial part of the EAA Air Academy, for me, was the friendships and atmosphere of the Air Academy. Being in a camp environment with 50 other young people interested in aviation is fantastic! Two years later, I still keep in contact with several of the campers in my session.
In 1992, Tom Poberezny, President of EAA, had the initiative to create the EAA
Young Eagles Program. This program had an enormous goal of flying one million young people, ages 8-17, by the year 2003. Since its inception 10 years ago, the program has flown over 800,000 young people.
During the past few years, the 30,000 Young Eagle Pilots worldwide have flown over 100,000 Young Eagles annually. With some additional help from pilots and the aviation community, EAA will reach the goal of one million on December 17, 2003. (General Chuck Yeager, Honorary Spokesman for the Young Eagles Program, has agreed to fly the millionth Young Eagle at Kitty Hawk, N.C., during the Centennial Celebration of Flight.)
Judy Rice is the Science-Math-Technology Program Manager. Her task is to develop and create science-, math-, and technology-based educational curricula for use by teachers in elementary and middle schools across the country. The work that Ms. Rice has done is phenomenal. In the future, thousands of children will be able to learn science, math, and technology in an interesting and unique way involving the use of aviation concepts inside the classroom.
A few years ago, a group of Atlanta, Georgia pilots started an organization called
in Aviation. The concept of the organization has grown tremendously, and like the EAA Vision of Eagles Program, contains three crucial parts: a video, a Web site, and a presence at events.
Careers In Aviation has been filming an aviation career video. The video features two teenagers interviewing 10 different aviation professionals from airline pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, to other crucial and important aviation careers that typically aren't considered by the public. As soon as the video is completed (mid-summer 2002), it will be distributed to middle- and high-schools across the country. After students view the video, they can obtain more information about the aviation industry and potential careers through Careers
in Aviation's interactive web site.
Careers In Aviation is currently developing an interactive web site for young adults. The Web site will include a career of the day, profiles of aviation careers, interviews with aviation professionals, and aviation forums. One of the most interesting aspects of this Web site is the opportunity for young people to be matched up with mentors who can guide them through the aviation industry.
In order to create an interest in all of the different services the organization and Web site can offer, Careers In Aviation has plans to travel to major aviation events across the country (including many airshows), passing out information about aviation careers and its program to encourage young people to get involved in the aviation industry.
Although still a fairly young program, this program has a lot of potential. It has a long list of financial backers, including Delta Airlines, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Western Michigan, and Epps Aviation. However, like any non-profit organization, more
sponsors are needed.
The Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) was founded in 1976, and four short years later, OBAP created its youth program, the Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE) Program. The ACE Program has been operating annually for more than 20 years, with a focus on introducing young minority teenagers to the aviation industry.
The Weekend Academy program is designed for middle-school students, and provides the opportunity for 20 hours of aviation history, ground school, orientation flights, and actual flight instruction. Visit
OBAP for a complete schedule of the Academy and for more information on the organization.
The NBAA has created
AvKids. AvKids provides teachers and the business aviation community with the tools to inspire and educate young kids.
Teachers who visit NBAA's AvKids web site can find numerous lesson plans, classroom activities, reading lists, and resource materials. Materials include Avkids' Activity Guide and Teacher Resource, and Avkids' LitBase, a database of educator-reviewed recommended reading.
Kids who visit NBAA's AvKids web site can find seven different aviation computer games especially designed for children. All of the games are on small files, so it shouldn't take long to be downloaded to a personal computer.
For any FBOs, charter operators, or interested pilots, NBAA has provided a comprehensive
list on how to organize and operate a local aviation career day. The list was complied from Duncan's Aviation's very successful Career Day they offered to its local students. It also provides useful information on how to structure a Career Day Presentation. Last, NBAA has organized information on various aviation careers that may be of interested to students.
Because CAP is a government program, it is probably the most well-funded and well-known aviation youth program in the United States. CAP was established in 1941, and chartered as a nonprofit, humanitarian corporation in 1946. Stated in Public Law 476 (which created the Civil Air Patrol), one of CAP's duties is "to provide aviation education and training, especially senior and cadet members."
CAP's Cadet Program is designed for youth between 12 (or sixth grade) and 21 years of age. There is a small cost associated with CAP's Cadet Program: National Cadet dues are $20, and cadets are responsible for paying their educational dues, $16.
One advantage CAP has over a few of the other programs is longevity. CAP's cadet program offers interested students the opportunity to stay involved in flying long-term. CAP is also an excellent way to be exposed to military training. For many young adults interested in flying, its an excellent way to get involved in the aviation industry.
There are literately hundreds of local youth aviation programs across the country. In many of the major metropolitan cities, there are multiple youth programs. Many of the small, local aviation programs are more informal, instead of a large elaborate program. Many of these programs are initiated by local pilots or teachers interested in inspiring a future generation into the aviation industry. These programs also offer an excellent opportunity for any interested pilots to assist in general aviation's new beginning.
Even though we live in a time where insurance, lawsuits, and security drive the majority of our decisions, young people now have more organized formal programs (at more airports) for their introduction into the wonderful world of aviation.
No matter what your location, aircraft, or profession, you have the opportunity to help share the gift of flight with young people. Whether it's through one of the national programs like the EAA Young Eagles Program, Careers In Aviation, or CAP, or a small local program, introducing aviation to future generations may inspire the next Scotty Crossfield, Chuck Yeager, Wayne Handley, Phil Boyer, John and Martha King, or Rod Machado to start flying.
I know that, without the help of the dozens of individuals who have assisted me in the aviation industry during the last six years, I wouldn't be flying today. (To everyone that has helped me, thank you!).
For more information regarding these programs, you can also visit my
web site, JamailLarkins.com.