By AOPA ePublishing staff
When you’re passionate about something, you want to share that passion with the world. For many pilots that means telling friends about aviation or taking them for rides. But for Darren Large, it means something bigger.
Large started an Aviation Explorer post at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey where he serves as the projects and grants administrator. The program helps young people ages 15 to 20 who are interested in aviation explore career options and develop an understanding of the field through firsthand experiences.
The Morristown post, which meets once a month, started in January and currently includes five boys and four girls. The group already has toured the control tower, talked with a corporate pilot and toured the aircraft and hangar where he works, and met with the Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Department. Participants also spend time in the classroom where they may study aviation weather or cover private pilot ground school topics.
“Sometimes an airport is not everyone’s favorite neighbor, and many of us in the industry realize that,” Large said. “This program has allowed the airport to open its doors to the young men and women in the area who are interested in aviation. And it has allowed us to educate [their] parents on the importance of aviation and the airport to the community.”
Large, who participated in an Explorer program as a teenager, also was part of a job shadowing program that allowed him to spend a day following a corporate pilot. That experience got him hooked on aviation, and he hopes to do the same for participants in the Aviation Explorer program.
“Many people who go on to careers in aviation do so because just one experience made them fall in love with it,” Large said. “The Explorer program allows us to provide the experiences that will hopefully steer the participants toward a career in aviation.”
Large encourages anyone in a position to start an Explorer post to do so. “We are all ambassadors of aviation, and we need to promote the industry and open it up to those who may be interested in working side by side with us one day,” he said.
Pilots and teachers also can share aviation knowledge with teens through AOPA’s PATH to Aviation Program. The program includes an 11-module handbook that effectively relates aviation information to secondary school subjects, including math, science, and history.
May 6, 2008