By Cindy Hasselbring, Senior Director, High School Aviation Initiative, AOPA
“I’m getting out of the airplane. Let me out at the terminal building.” These words from my flight instructor meant he had decided I was ready to solo for the first time. I panicked a little, and tried to argue with him, but to no avail. So I pulled up next to the terminal building where he got out of the small Cessna 152 we had been flying. While taxiing by myself for the first time, I realized I had a choice to make—to be nervous or to be “pilot in command” and trust that my hard work had prepared me for this moment. As I lifted off, I realized I was ready, and this was going to be the start of a lifetime of adventures in the sky.
I was already a high school math teacher when I learned to fly. The experience taught me what it was like to be a learner again, and gave me the chance to see real-world applications of the mathematics I taught. There is no truer test of leadership and responsibility than piloting an aircraft. As a pilot, you must communicate with the control tower and other pilots, anticipate challenges and prepare to devise alternative solutions, and use critical thinking skills to make decisions on the ground and in the air.
I have since realized that exposing students to aviation and teaching them leadership and decision-making skills is priceless in helping them to prepare for bright futures filled with options. Not only are the skills developed in flight training highly sought after by employers of all types, but there is a critical demand in aviation career fields specifically. Boeing’s 2016 Pilot and Technician Outlook report estimates that 112,000 new pilots and 118,000 new aviation technicians will be needed in North America by the year 2035.
Students planning cross country flights at Raisbeck Aviation High School, Seattle, WA
To help address this need, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the largest community of aviators in the United States, is dedicated to helping high school students discover rewarding aviation careers. AOPA helps schools establish and grow aviation STEM programs by sharing best practices and building curricula that follow career and technical education pathways in piloting, aerospace engineering, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and aviation technology. These new courses are being developed in partnership with Purdue University and will be available to interested high schools in the fall of 2018. This program is part of a larger High School Aviation initiative that offers high school students flight training scholarships as well. For educators, AOPA hosts an annual aviation STEM symposium in November each year. More information about our curriculum, scholarships, and symposium can be found at https://youcanfly.aopa.org/high-school or by emailing us at [email protected].
High school students getting a pre-flight briefing, Frederick, MD