College students and others shaking off their winter blues will have an additional spring break option besides the old standbys of Panama City Beach, Florida; Cancun, Mexico; and Hilton Head, South Carolina, when the first annual MODAERO fly-in spreads its wings in Texas next year.
Organizer Brian Columbus said the first MODAERO #Nextgen Aviation Event takes aim at mobile and ultra-hip millennials and will offer the next generation of aviators live concerts, camping, and career fairs along with a steady stream of aviation seminars and static airplane displays March 16 through 19, 2016, at Conroe’s Lonestar Executive Airport north of Houston.
Millennials represent 40 percent of all pilots and 70 percent of student pilots, according to the FAA. Columbus said setting the MODAERO aviation event during spring break showcases an opportunity to reshape the aviation industry so that it’s attractive to younger people through a celebration of culture, lifestyle, and marketing. “This generation grew up with the Internet, they live on their cell phones, they’re hypermobile, and tech savvy,” he said. “They are motivated by experiences and receptive to events, more so than with traditional marketing. The purpose of MODAERO is to give them their own space, communicate to them on their own terms, and repackage aviation in a way they can consume it.”
Columbus said the main purpose of the conference and fly-in is to engage, educate, and empower young people interested in aviation and he’s hoping to have one of the nation’s largest career expos to help them find jobs, too. “Whether they’re 16 or 30, we consider that the growth segment for aviation. These folks are going to flight schools and many of them are young professionals,” he said. “We’ll have face-to-face interviews, who’s hiring and what they’re looking for.”
He explained that the aviation industry is competing with many other attractions and activities today versus 20 or 30 years ago, and that it’s challenging to create an environment valuing aviation because of the commitment it takes to learn the ropes.
The airport is directly across the street from the Montgomery County Festival grounds and Lonestar Conference Center with nearby camping and facilities for education, a ballroom for keynote speakers, and 35 acres of exhibition grounds for static aircraft.
In addition to a smorgasbord of seminars, MODAERO spring breakers would have attractions and entertainment geared just for them, including concerts, for more of a festival type of feel. “It’s really a cross between a fly-in and something cultural like the South by Southwest event [in Austin, Texas]. We want to make it young, hip, and interesting to this demographic so they can get a real hands-on look at what aviation can offer,” he said.
Columbus said registration for MODAERO begins Oct. 1 for sponsors, and attendee registration opens Nov. 1. Pricing will be worked out at that time.