This week, more than 300 students from Rowan County Middle and Senior High schools toured the Morehead Rowan County Clyde A. Thomas Regional Airport introducing students to growing career potentials in multiple fields of aviation.
According to recent studies released by Boeing, the world is facing a shortage of new pilots totaling 790,000 by 2037, with a large portion of them projected to occur in the U.S. Similar shortages are forecast for airplane repair technicians.
Shortages are driven by retirements, increased demand and emerging commercial drone usage.
Meanwhile, the number of pilot certificates issued by the Federal Aviation Administration has decreased more than 60 percent since 1980.
According to the Airplane Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA), the mismatch of supply and demand presents a tremendous opportunity for students in aviation careers that they may not have previously considered.
To assist in meeting the emerging pilot demand, AOPA (a large nationwide aviation advocacy organization) has begun rolling out an aviation focused STEM curriculum for high schools across America which will be aligned to rigorous math and science standards used in many states nationwide.
The curriculum is offered free to participating high schools and will provide up to four years of aviation classes focused on knowledge required for pilots of both conventional and professional drone aircraft.
Additionally, AOPA is offering a number of generous scholarships ($10,000 each) to students pursuing aviation careers as well as pilot scholarships for some high school teachers engaged in aviation teaching.
According to James Stevens with the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter, Supt. John Maxey recently authorized the Rowan County Senior High School Principal Brandy Carver to send a science teacher to a two-day AOPA symposium in Louisville to hear other teachers relate their ongoing experiences with the AOPA program. Thirteen of those schools (out of 80 total nationwide) were from Kentucky.
Teachers currently using the AOPA program report it is well designed, complete and apparently well funded for the long haul.
RCSHS has now decided to add the AOPA basic aviation course as an option in next year’s science curriculum, according to Stevens.
Ninety-seven colleges and Universities nationwide currently offer Federal Aviation Association (FAA) approved degrees in multiple aviation disciplines. Eastern Kentucky University is one of them.
The AOPA curriculum is designed to prepare students for these programs.
The Morehead Rowan County Airport board, Holly aviation and local EAA chapter are universally in support of the high school aviation program and will assist Rowan County and any other local schools to the extent their resources may be needed for field trips, airport education or to connect serious aviation students with local flight instructors if desired.
EAA Chapter 1525 (part of another nationwide aviation organization) has long sponsored local Young Eagles events (bi-annually) and is taking the lead for the airport to foster aviation education in the community.
EAA (national) also awards scholarships for aviation students through its local chapters as do an increasing number of other aviation organizations.