Middle- and high-school students can take to the sky and learn what it’s like to be pilots and other members of the aviation industry through the Career Eagles Aviation Initiative, a partnership program between Ohio State, the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, Youth Aviation Adventure and the Experimental Aircraft Association.
The Career Eagles Aviation Initiative began in 2014 as a way to help young students learn about careers in the aviation industry. The program partners with local middle and high schools to provide opportunities through academics, extracurriculars and hands-on experiences, such as flight lessons and airport tours.
The group was created to help solve a pilot problem that many aviation experts feared, said Shannon Morrison, program coordinator for Career Eagles.
“(Career Eagles) started in response to a perceived pilot shortage,” Morrison said. “There were some discussions in the industry about whether or not there are going to be enough pilots to be able to meet the demand of people flying.”
Funded by the Knowlton Foundation, Career Eagles began with an initial focus to introduce students to STEM and aviation careers, specifically becoming pilots. But aviation is more than just getting kids into flying, Morrison said.
“It’s a really big industry. There’s a lot of areas that need positions filled, whether it’s controllers, pilots, aircraft maintenance, airport planners, even aerospace engineers,” Morrison said. “We’ve tried to create a program and engage kids to a wider variety of jobs within the industry.”
Morrison said that she knew there were a number of other programs in Central Ohio already working to expose kids to the aviation industry and the science, technology, engineering and math fields, but she wanted to find a way to combine their efforts into one cohesive initiative.
“I made it an effort on my part to really get these folks talking to one another and see if we could leverage all of their activities,” Morrison said. “I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to elevate what these groups are already doing.”
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Youth Eagles program is one group that works closely with Career Eagles. The program allows students to be paired with a licensed pilot and go out on a small airplane for a quick flight lesson.
Josh Fisher, a flight instructor at the OSU airport and Career Eagles educator who works with the program’s summer camps, said Career Eagles give students an up-close and personal look into the world of aviation.
“What (we) aim to do there is keep them away from the classroom as much as possible. Aviation is awesome and there’s a lot of cool stuff you can see, so we try and get ourselves into the aviation environment,” he said.
Ultimately, whatever a student might hope to pursue in the future, Fisher said that Career Eagles can help them find a place for them in the aviation industry.
“It doesn’t matter what you want to do in your career, you can find it in aviation,” he said. “You like medicine? You can be an aviation medical examiner. Want to be a lawyer? You can be an aviation lawyer. Like agriculture? Agriculture has lots of ways it’s using airplanes. Whatever it is, there’s a place for you in aviation.”
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