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Senator visits AOPA headquartersSenator visits AOPA headquarters

Van Hollen interested in aviation workforce effortsVan Hollen interested in aviation workforce efforts

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) visited with AOPA President Mark Baker and senior staff at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, on May 20. Van Hollen seemed especially impressed by the aviation-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) high school curriculum being developed by AOPA’s You Can Fly program and was intrigued by its potential to help develop the aviation workforce.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), left, flies a Redbird simulator under the tutelage of Luz Beattie, AOPA's director of flight operations. Van Hollen visited AOPA's headquarters May 20. Photo by Mike Collins.

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.” 

“When you look at the growth of air transportation, it’s not surprising we got to where we are today—with a pilot shortage,” said Elizabeth Tennyson, executive director of AOPA’s You Can Fly Academy. She said six schools in Maryland are among the 165 nationwide that will be using the curriculum this fall, a number that continues to grow. “It’s a way to introduce students to aviation, learn what the opportunities are, what the career pathways could be for them.”

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.).

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), left, talks with AOPA President Mark Baker during a visit to AOPA's headquarters in Frederick, Md. Photo by Mike Collins.
Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
Topics: You Can Fly, Career

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