Do you dream of flying?

Vision of Flight program lets youths soar

September 1, 2012

Michael McKenzie is proof that one man can make a difference.

After hearing about the projected shortage of qualified pilots and general aviation professionals by 2020, the Orlando, Fla. businessman decided to do something about it.

In February, McKenzie launched his Vision of Flight program, offering youth ages 14 to 17 in the Orlando metro area 160 hours of aviation instruction. Instruction is given on Saturdays and two days a week after school, and the goal is to nurture teen’s passion for aviation and raise their awareness of aviation as a possible career.

Projections show that by 2020, there will be need to hire 25,000 pilots and 50,000 aviation professionals, McKenzie said. His program seeks to address that demand “by exposing and educating youth about the many facets of the industry and providing students, particularly minorities and women, real-time industry-standard training to prepare them for entry into the aviation industry.”

In three phases, the program aims to bring an estimated 300 participants yearly from acquiring a basic knowledge of aviation through enhanced skill development to job training and career planning, AOPA reported. Flight training is introduced via computer simulation. Students that demonstrate high interest, aptitude, and continued educational achievement will have the opportunity to move to aircraft. The program also has a community service component.

Program partners include Central Florida YMCA, Lockheed Martin Aerospace, Orange County Public Schools and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.