Ideas, encouragement, and support were shared during online presentations, informal coffee breaks, roundtable discussions, and live Q&As. The tenth annual Redbird Migration Flight Training Experience conference was conducted online because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Redbird COO Charlie Gregoire said the conference’s objective “was never really about teaching people how to fly” but to provide information, perspectives, and technical breakouts that might “spark a thought or an idea” on what a flight training organization could become. “There is no industry where people are more passionate about what they do.”
“I’m bullish on where this is heading,” said AOPA President Mark Baker during a State of General Aviation panel during which participants voiced optimism about a robust domestic flight training environment that is bouncing back after COVID-19 restrictions. He said “general aviation is doing well” and reiterated a previous observation that lately the nation’s airspace has been filled with “more Cessna 172s” than “Boeing 737 commercial airliners.”
Baker also talked about the AOPA High School Aviation STEM Curriculum initiative that is opening aviation careers to countless young people. The ninth- through twelfth-grade private pilot or drone pilot pathway is reaching about 8,300 students through 450 classrooms in 218 schools and 38 states, with about 23 percent female participation.
Baker was joined by Women in Aviation International Chief Executive Officer Allison McKay, who said WAI members were “gobbling up” advances in technology that help lower aviation costs and increase safety. “If we can lower the price of training, you are going to get a whole new demographic interested and excited by the prospect of actually being able to complete their goal.”
EAA Chief Executive Officer Jack Pelton, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President Pete Bunce, and Helicopter Association International President Jim Viola joined the discussion led by Redbird Chairman of the Board and former AOPA President Craig Fuller. They spoke about K-12 STEM education, aviation opportunities for underserved populations, and international training.
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AOPA’s You Can Fly program was created to get more people flying and keep them flying through four key initiatives: High School STEM curriculum, Flight Training, Flying Clubs, and Rusty Pilots. The program is funded by donations to the AOPA Foundation.