Paying It Forward: The Importance of Giving Back to Aviation's Next Generation

Remember back in the good ole' days, when you were eating ramen noodles and living out of a crash pad so that you didn't have to move in with your parents after college? Remember when you had nothing but your dreams ahead of you, only to be knocked down once or twice because you couldn't afford to follow through with them? Were you, by chance, one of those starving pilots who handed over your paycheck for a single flight in a 152, or a budding manager who lived out of your car during your first low-paying airport job? Or maybe you just came to your aviation career later in life, after struggling, maybe even giving up once or twice along the way, only to find some other way to make it happen years later?

Maybe your parents helped you along the way, or maybe a stranger, or maybe a supervisor who saw potential in you and gave you that well-deserved promotion. Perhaps you got a scholarship, or maybe you had a good mentor, or friends who made important connections for you along the way.

However you got to where you are, chances are good that you had some help. Whether it came to you financially, through a scholarship or a leg up from your parents, or whether you just worked hard every single day, you probably witnessed the importance of a helping hand as you worked your way to where you are.

Had I not had help along the way, my life would have taken a very different course. Perhaps I wouldn't even be in aviation today. Perhaps I'd have been pushed into a different, higher-paying job just to make ends meet. I'm certain I'd have found my way back into aviation, but it would have been a much longer road. But that didn't happen, thanks to a variety of generous people who helped me along the way. It seems like each time I ran out of money or resources or good fortune, I was offered a helping hand. Whether it was in the form of a place to stay, extra cash, a scholarship, or just words of encouragement, those acts of kindness and pure generosity meant that I could continue on my path to become a pilot.

During the early years of anyone's developing career path, this kind of help is so important. And aviation's next generation can use all the help they can get. Aviation is expensive, right? Flying, for those of us not blessed with unlimited financial resources, can seem so far out of our reach that some people just can't or won't even consider it. And even for those who have the resources, or those of us who have dug down deep and saved enough money, it seems like it's just never enough to get where you want to go.

I remember the feeling I had when, years ago, I got a scholarship letter in the mail. I was so grateful. It was more than just money, although that was important, too. It meant that somebody, somewhere, believed that I had what it takes to become a pilot, and that my hard work spent keeping up my grades and volunteering had paid off. It meant that I, and my family, would struggle less to come up with money for me to fly. And it meant, for at least the following year, I could continue on with my dreams. Months later, I met the generous man who had given me this scholarship, along with a couple of other scholarship recipients, and what he said has stuck with me. He didn't want anything in return, he said. He wasn't going to track our whereabouts or even our grades. He was just going to trust that we'd do the right thing, and that someday, after we've "made it," maybe we could pass on our good fortune to a younger generation. Pay it forward.

If you've "made it" in the aviation world, have you considered giving someone else a leg up? If you're financially sound, have you considered offering a scholarship to a young person who wants to follow their dream to work in aviation? If you succeeded, even in part, due to someone else's mentorship or coaching in the early years, have you made an effort to mentor someone else who may benefit from a friend in the industry? If your success in the aviation world today is due in part to the generosity of someone else, whether in the form of a scholarship, a mentor, a friend who offered you a place to stay or a supervisor who put in a good word for you, have you thought to pay it forward?

Pay it forward. You might just make someone's dream a reality. And the aviation industry will thank you.



Did you know that GlobalAir.com offers a scholarship? Track last year's scholarship recipients here, and stay tuned for more news on the 2015 scholarship winners!