Let's not lose sight of where this wonderful industry is heading.
I am sorry to have to tell you this, but most of you reading this article are no longer the future of aviation. You may be fully entwined and engrossed as a current player within the aviation industry today, but all too soon some day off in the future, you will have to slow it down and enact your exit strategy with the hope that you will have suitably prepared yourself for a long, comfortable and happy retirement before you make your last flight.
No; the future of aviation lay's in the hands of today's youth, and unless you work at an aviation school, you have probably noticed that there are not too many young people hanging out at your airport, like they did when you were first bitten by the love of aviation bug. This is a gathering storm that will eventually turn into a cataclysm that will consume the industry that we all love, if none of us make the time to give a leg-up to youngsters that are our future.
Part of the problem is the fact that airports have now become impenetrable fortresses where it is impossible for any young person to have any kind of personal - hands on experience (touch/feel) with an aircraft up-close. Razor-wire topped fences, cameras, no-parking signs and airport security personnel has effectively killed any hope of parents packing a picnic lunch and loading it and their children up in the family car to go an watch aeroplanes at the local airport.
Years ago it was commonplace for pilots and their aviation friends to invite an excited boy or girl who had been eagerly watching aircraft movements' car-side, to hop over the fence and "come take a look at my aeroplane." Sometimes after obtaining mum or dad's approval, they might have even strapped the youngster in and taken them for a quick hop around the pattern. Regardless of what act of random kindness someone on the air-side of the fence decided to bestow upon an awestruck youngster, it was the spark that ignited a raging fire that burned in the belly of that youngster that caused he or she to pursue a career within the aviation industry.
If we didn't have the EAA's Young Eagle Program, the Scouts Aviation Badge System, and the Air Cadet Organization thankfully out there plugging away on our behalf trying to give young people their first taste of aviation, our industry would have already been long-ago relegated to near extinction. Obviously there will always be a need for air transportation; however the new-world order of anti-terrorism-security programs and other societal-saving mandates has slowed the air transportation system down to a crawl, and subsequently what little glamour or mysticism that our industry was barely clutching onto in its wizened hands, has now been lost. Why would a youngster aspire to join an industry that is inaccessible, officious and inconvenient?
There was a time when Glenn Curtiss was building airports all-across the United States to allow the dots of commerce to be rapidly connected. There was a time when aerospace was synonymous with everything that was new, slick and advanced in the world. Men and women like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, through their record-breaking aviation exploits and feats of daring provided immense inspiration as positive role models to young people in the twentieth century. Where are the aviation role models in this second century of aviation?
Hopefully this is where you come in. Yes you; I'm not talking to anyone else so please don't ignore my message to you in this vital matter. Now is the time for you to start sharing your love of aviation with the younger generation. How can you do this? To start with, why don't you talk to your neighbours where you live and ask if any of the children in the neighbourhood would like to come to the airport with you to look around and get up-close to some aircraft? I promise you that the first time that you make a move in this effort; your heart shall be gripped with an overwhelming sense of good. If your own passion for aviation might have been flagging of late, the joy of aviation that the young people find thanks to this, your first effort shall, I am certain, encourage you to do more of this aviation experience sharing. If you fly, take the youngsters up. Maybe later you will become so enamoured by the way that this benevolent new side of you makes you feel, you might start speaking at local schools in your area?
It takes a massive amount of people to make our national aviation system work. The pilots often take most, if not all of the spotlight and glory; but think of the number of aviation maintenance technicians, line service personnel, engineers, designers, detailers, sales people, air traffic controllers, handlers, administrators, painters, upholsterers, inspectors, regulators, and entrepreneurs that are right behind the pilot, thus making his role possible within this marvellous system. If we can't inspire the next and future generations of people to elect to fill these roles, where will we all end-up? I don't plan on ever walking in the long-cold and dead footprints made by dinosaurs, and I pretty sure you don't either too.
Please become an inspiration to others by sharing your love of aviation, because you are mainly all that this industry has, and unless you have found a way to live forever, you will soon be retiring.