Many youth dream of a career in aviation but never pursue one because they don’t realize the many opportunities that exist beyond piloting aircraft or being a flight attendant.
Organizers of the annual Aviation Career Day at McKinnon St. Simons Airport on March 7 believe it’s an ideal way for area youth to learn more about the many aviation-related jobs available locally and across the nation.
Jerry Latvala, president of the Experimental Aircraft Association and one of the event organizers, said nearly 200 youth have already registered for the event through social media. Organizers plan to go to the high schools this month as another way to generate interest.
Only youths ages 8 to 17 are eligible for the flights.
“It’s mind boggling the response we’ve gotten so far,” he said. “The kids love it.”
Aviation professionals, college officials and other experts will explain career opportunities in aircraft maintenance, law enforcement, logistics, luggage handling, military careers, flight attendant, piloting and more.
The big lure for area youth is the opportunity for a free flight around the Golden Isles in a small aircraft. The flights are offered through the Young Eagles program and are conducted with Experimental Aircraft Association pilots who volunteer their time and aircraft for the event.
Pilots will take groups on 20-minute flights over the Golden Isles. And the lucky youth sitting in the co-pilot’s seat will be offered to take the controls during the flight.
“They always have big smiles on their faces after the flight,” he said. “To see the city and county from the air is an experience for the kids. For most of them, it’s their first time in an airplane.”
So far, Latvala said seven pilots have volunteered to fly groups for the event, and he is trying to get three to five more planes for the event.
The pilots participating in the event volunteer their time and aircraft as a way to give back to the community, he said.
Each pilot is certified, and the flights are conducted according to federal regulations. Some passengers will be disappointed to learn no acrobatic maneuvers will be allowed on the flights.
Prior to takeoff, the pilot will explain how an aircraft works, show an aeronautical chart and explain the function of the instruments and gauges in the cockpit.
“There has never been a better time or more opportunity for young people to get into the field of aviation,” said Robert Burr, Executive Director of the Glynn County Airport Commission. “With the global pilot and technician shortage, today’s students can look forward to more job openings and higher salaries than we have seen in decades.”
A C-130 Hercules airplane to be flown in by the 165 Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard. Firefighting aircraft from the Georgia Forestry Commission, several different types of helicopters and a host of privately-owned planes will also be on hand. Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation’s FAST truck, a state-of-the-art mobile aircraft service unit, will be available for tours.
The event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., will also include an opportunity for participants to test their piloting skills on a real flight simulator like ones used to train today’s pilots.
Organizers hope the event inspires some of the participants to pursue an aviation career.
“A pilot is a very good career, but there are hundreds of jobs that don’t leave the ground that support aviation,” Latvala said. “They’re all full careers.”
Go to the airport website and click on the “events” link to register.