What should I do next?
After Young Aviators . . . . .by Seán G. Dwyer
A question I often hear from parents at the end of the week-long Young Aviators program goes as follows:
“Now that my child is totally turned on by aviation, how do we nurture/support/advance that interest?’
- Enroll in STEM courses and science clubs in school
- Continue flight lessons towards a pilot’s license
- Join an Aviation Explorer troop
- Become a Civil Air Patrol cadet
- Become a student member of the EAA
(1) STEM Courses + Science Clubs (“Aviation is only an appetizer, STEM is the main course!”)
On Day #1 we said our primary goal was to get kids interested in STEM. If they never pursued aviation further, but did get more interested in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, the Young Aviators staff would feel we succeeded. While China and India graduate about 800,000 engineers each every year, the U.S.A. graduates fewer than a tenth of that number! America needs more kids to enroll in science classes. Latin and social courses have a place, but calculus and computer languages will be more useful in the Information Age. If your child enrolls in chemistry or physics classes or joins a science club at school, they could share what they learned in Young Aviators. That sharing of learning is when they would really benefit from their Young Aviators experience!
(2) A Pilot License Requires both Flying Lessons and Ground School
Young Aviators log time with certified flying instructors (CFI) and could continue flying lessons with those or other CFIs.
Eligibility for student pilot certificates requires applicants to be at least 14 years to operate a glider or balloon and at least 16 years old for powered airplanes. While the minimum age for a pilot’s license is 17, a student pilot can fly solo earlier than that. It is not uncommon for kids whose families own an airplane to solo on their 16 birthday and get their pilot’s license on their 17th birthday. If the thought of your16 year old flying solo gives you the heebee-jeebies, keep in mind that Gilmore Cecil Daniel was only 16 in 1941 when he flew in combat with the RAF’s American Eagle squadron. His training was sufficient and your 16 year old would not have Nazis shooting at him or her.
Because a minor hiccup in health can end an airline pilot’s career, kids are advised to also qualify for another profession when pursuing aviation credentials via a university. Top choices include Military Academies, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida & Arizona, Indiana’s Purdue University, and UND Aerospace in North Dakota which owns more than 120 airplanes. I earned my PhD in Chemistry at UND and can assure you that, while ND’s out-of-state tuition is lower than in-state tuition in many states, 30 deg below zero in winter tends to keep out the riff-raff.
(3) Aviation Explorer Troop (age 14 – 21)
Explorer Troop 218 is sponsored by EAA Chapter 838. Although the highlight of their year is the Aviation Explorer campsite on the grounds of Airventure Oshkosh, Post 218 has meetings and other activities throughout the year where members manage their post and plan operations with the guidance of qualified adult advisors.
(4) Civil Air Patrol Cadet (age 12 – 18)
An all-volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP operates one of the largest fleets of single-engine piston aircraft in the world, including one based on Racine’s Batten International Airport. Cadets develop leadership and technical skills as well as learn about aviation. They can further hone their skills through summer academies that offer real-world career exploration in many disciplines, including flying, aviation technology, programming, web-site design, engineering, aircraft manufacturing and weather. They may also participate in search & rescue and humanitarian missions as radio operators, ground team members, and mission staff assistants.
(5) EAA Student Membership (age 8 – 18)
While Young Aviators emerged in Racine as an answer to “What’s next after Young Eagles?” , the EAA in Oshkosh developed its own multifaceted response which would interest graduates of the Young Aviators program.
"What we have learned from others becomes our own reflection" -Ralph Waldo Emerson