‘Where the rubber meets the road’ for aviation’s future

August 4, 2011

More than 200 people—including a teacher who flew his class’s project from Alaska to Wisconsin for the event—shared ways to get kids involved in aviation at the third annual Teachers Day at EAA AirVenture July 26.

The day focused on equipping teachers to incorporate aviation into the classroom, particularly related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Speakers discussed the role that teachers play in opening doors to aviation careers and ensuring that aviation has a future.

“You are critical to our industry and the entire general aviation industry,” General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce told the teachers in attendance. GAMA, AOPA, EAA, Build A Plane, and the Wolf Aviation Fund were major sponsors of the day. “You are where the rubber meets the road. … If we don’t have you, we don’t have a future. We count on you to impart on young men and women the joy of flying, and the joy of getting these birds in the air and all of the associated industries that fall out from that.”

Teachers came from almost all 50 states to the day’s events. Ryan Walker from Chevak, Alaska, flew the Rans airplane that he and his students at Chevak High School built. Another teacher won a free introductory flight, courtesy of AOPA, at an airport near her home.

AOPA Director of Flight Training Initiatives Jennifer Storm drew Wisconsin teacher Julie Kruizenga’s name for the flight. Storm also shared AOPA’s Pilots and Teachers Handbook (PATH), which provides guidance and free resource materials to help teachers and pilots take aviation into the classroom.

US Airways Flight 1549 co-pilot Jeff Skiles, now co-chairman of the Young Eagles program, emphasized the importance of supporting young people who are interested in aviation. The face of aviation will be changing in the next 10 years, he said, with many professional pilots retiring and NextGen modernization changing the air transportation system.

“Bringing people into the industry as a profession, whether as mechanics, pilots, ATC, and aerospace engineers, and all things associated, is critical,” he said. “We have to help them understand the fantastic careers in aviation that they can be a part of. They can do something exciting for the rest of their lives.”