AirVenture is all about advocating aviation.
But with a shortage of experienced pilots projected in the next twenty years, there is more of a push to get kids interested.
“When I got into flying in the early 80s, if you got into an airline then it would take you 10-15 years to upgrade to captain,” said Brian O’Lena, senior coordinator for Young Eagles at the EAA. “If you could get a job at an airline.”
Aircraft giant Boeing expects 800,000 new pilots to be needed in the next 20 years.
And the Young Eagles program is trying to chip away at the shortage by introducing more kids to aircraft.
“We’re trying to give them an interest in aviation,” he said. “Whether it’s for a career or hobby or just enjoyment.”
It tries hooking them early for a lifetime of success.
“Basically, we can give them a free flight in an airplane,” said O’Lena. “Once that’s done, we’ll get them a log book. And in that log book, they can sign up for a free membership at EAA until they’re 19.”
It has been around since 1992, and has given more than two-million kids plane rides all over the US, Canada, and just about anywhere else.
“It’s an occupation, but it’s also a lifestyle,” he said. “And in many cases, quite rewarding in terms of financial terms, too.”
It is not uncommon for pilots to command six-figure salaries from crop-dusting to commercial airliners.
But really, the whole field needs help.
“We still need more people involved,” said O’Lena. “We need more people involved as pilots. We need more people involved as mechanics, we need more people involved in all the facets of aviation.”