I took some time at Oshkosh this year with Steve Wathen, Co-founder and Chairman of Youth Aviation Adventure, to learn about their program. "YAA is a fast-paced, ½-day program for youth ages 12-18 to foster interest in aviation. More than 300 pilots and aviation enthusiasts’ nationwide, using curriculum developed with and endorsed by the Ohio State University Department of Education, train in aviation fields such as aircraft instrumentation, aerodynamics, pre-flight routine, airport operations and careers in aviation and more."
According to the FAA, the number of student pilot certificates issued in 2009 was approximately 72,000, a 23% decline from 2000, and the forecast shows continued decline. In the next 20 years, the demand for aviation professionals will exceed supply, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This shortage will include commercial pilots, aviation engineers and aircraft maintenance personnel.
YAA, through their Partner Programs (currently 27 nationwide, in 17 states total) offers a unique experience. The 20-minute station sessions include time for Q&A with the pilots and aviation professionals. A typical program hosts 25 to several hundred youth at each event, presented by at least seven volunteers. While the majority of participants are Boy and Girl Scouts (fulfills requirements for the Aviation Merit Badge), the program is open to any young person interested in learning more about aviation.
The Youth Aviation Adventure’s primary goals are growth and awareness. They are currently seeking installing their Large Group Program (LGP) in 50 cities nationwide by 2017, reaching an average of 30,000 kids per year. YAA has also is developing a new Small Group Program (SGP) for a dozen or fewer youth at any given time. This project timeline calls for modifying the curriculum and beta testing the program in 250 locations starting in January of 2014, with full national rollout by the end of the year.
During the first ten years of its existence, YAA operated solely in Columbus, OH. By 2007, they has expended to Cincinnati, OH. In its time, more than 8,000 youth have been exposed to aviation by the YAA, and nearly 2,000 adults accompanying youth at their events have gone through the YAA program. Financial support comes from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations, including the AOPA, the Aviation Electronics Association, Boeing, Jeppesen, the Professional Pilots Association, the Sporty’s Foundation and the Wolf Aviation Fund.
At this year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh (YAA’s 5th year in attendance), the YAA spoke with over 20 potential Partner Programs, so interest is continuing to grow. Partner Programs are asked for a minimum of an annual program (some do it as often as twice a year). To reach their goals, additional Partner Programs are essential, so the search for more volunteers is constant.
In addition to awareness, the Youth Aviation Adventure is also a finalist in the Lightspeed Aviation Foundation’s Pilots Choice Awards, in which the top five non-profit vote-getters in each of two divisions will receive grants to assist in program growth.