Denver, CO – Nearly 400 educators came together in the Mile High City this week for the fifth annual Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)High School Aviation STEM Symposium. Teachers were able to learn about new resources for the classroom while trying hands-on aviation activities and flying simulators.
Gleim Aviation was excited to join the event hosted at the United Airlines Flight Training Center in Denver, the largest airline pilot training facility in the world. The conference featured five keynote speeches and 14 breakout sessions. Each presenter shared information to help teachers enhance their aviation programs or provided insight into current career pathways for students.
Bryan Quigley, Senior Vice President of Flight Operations at United Airlines spoke with Mark Baker, President and CEO of AOPA, about how United Airlines is investing in the future of the airline industry and the need to create more pilots.
“It used to be that 50% of our pilots came from the military, that’s not the case now,” said Quigley. “We are going to have to find a way to source more pilots.”
The objectives of the AOPA High School Initiative are threefold: offer flight training scholarships, offer the AOPA aviation STEM curriculum for pilot and remote pilot pathways at no charge, and host an annual STEM Symposium. Elizabeth Tennyson, Executive Director of the AOPA You Can Fly Program, welcomed attendees and shared insights about the current participants in the High School Initiative. Right now across the United States there are more than 160 schools in 34 states with more than 5,000 students participating. So far in 2019, $1 million has been awarded to 100 scholarship winners.
Program participant achievements include 42 solo flights, 30 passed FAA knowledge tests, and 13 private pilots! While creating pilots is critical, another goal of the program is to increase their diversity. Women comprise 7% of the active pilot population while 22% of the students participating in AOPA’s program are female. Professional pilots are comprised of 8% people of color while 38% of the program participants are people of color.
At the beginning and end of each day, attendees were able to explore the exhibitor space and see the latest aviation classroom resources. Attendees were thrilled to land a Cessna 172 with our Gleim Virtual Cockpit™ flight simulator. Teachers with and without aviation experience, captains at major airlines, and former military pilots were all impressed with their experience, and even more impressed with the affordability of integrating flight simulation in the classroom.
Throughout the weekend we heard how many careers will become available over the next decade and beyond, not just for pilots but for all aviation-related careers. Uber Elevate team members gave the final general session presentation with some inspirational news about how close we are to having airborne ride sharing. They plan to hire thousands of pilots to fly their eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) vehicles over the next decade in urban areas. Throughout the weekend the message was clear – aviation is a promising pathway for students to get an exciting and well-paying career. And most importantly, we need teachers to help introduce opportunities and get students excited about the potential aviation has to offer.
Are you curious about starting an aviation program at your local high school? We can help! Start at the Gleim STEM Resource Hub. Then contact a Gleim Aviation Training Consultant to request free planning resources, such as our Runway to Opportunity brochure and Learn to Fly booklets, to help you develop your own flight path to landing aviation in your school or club.
The next AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium will be held November 9 and 10, 2020 at the Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida. See you next year in our very own Sunshine State!
Written by Callie Wilkes, Gleim Aviation Marketing & STEM Coordinator