Van Hollen was in Frederick for meetings with the city's leadership that took place in AOPA’s You Can Fly Academy, next door to AOPA’s headquarters on Frederick Municipal Airport.
“The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is a great resource for the hundreds of thousands of general aviation pilots across the United States,” Van Hollen said. “We’re proud that their national headquarters is located at the Frederick Municipal Airport, and I was pleased to meet with their leadership to discuss AOPA's many important programs, including their innovative high school training programs.”
And the program is working, she added. While Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 6.2 percent of professional pilots are female, 25 percent of ninth grade students participating in the curriculum are female. “And 51 percent of ninth grade students are from underrepresented groups,” Tennyson added. “The kids are so energized.”
“I’ll bet it’s a popular course,” said Van Hollen, asking if the military was still the major pathway to becoming a career pilot. Baker explained that the vast majority of pilots now come from the civilian sector—and that the U.S. military now has a pilot shortage.
“Are you confident you’re going to be able to fill the gap?” the senator asked.
“No,” Baker replied. “To fill the long-term needs, we’re behind the curve.” But it would go a long way to see the aviation STEM curriculum made available, free, to all high schools in the United States, Baker added.
Van Hollen discussed other topics with AOPA leadership as well, including the use of public/private partnerships to help develop general aviation airport infrastructure. “There are very few airports around the country that use long-term money and ground rents [to finance infrastructure],” Baker said. “It should be the preferred way.”
“I look forward to continuing to work with AOPA to support the training of the pilots of the future, and building a vibrant general aviation industry in Maryland and across the country,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen has been a strong supporter of general aviation, including third class medical reform and funding for airports. He also co-sponsored a Senate resolution, S.Res. 203, passed in May that commemorates AOPA’s eightieth anniversary. The resolution was introduced by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).