For over 68 years, pilots and aviation enthusiasts have been making the pilgrimage to the EAA Fly-In Convention. First to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then to Rockford, Illinois, and then eventually to its current home of Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During that one week each year, Wittman Regional Airport becomes the busiest airport in the world. All that you have to do is say “Oshkosh” to a pilot, and they know exactly what you are referring to.
Last year “Oshkosh” was canceled because of COVID. This year it came back with a roar. There were over 12,000 airplanes at the airport and more than twice as many people. Everyone was happy and motivated by the dynamics taking place in the aviation industry.
Everywhere you looked, there were new airplane concepts from electric airplanes to remotely operated aircraft. Single engine jets and new avionics proved that the aviation industry is very much alive and well.
Walking through the airline career tent, it was clear that the various recruiters were there to take back as many qualified and able-bodied pilots as they could. The colleges and universities were in full force with their aeronautical and UAV degree programs.
Looking at our industry in this way would motivate the most pessimistic person. There was a charge in the air, excitement over what is yet to come. Unless you were there to see it firsthand, you will never appreciate the magnitude of these words.
The frustrating side to all of this is that it is abundantly clear that our industry needs people. It needs pilots, mechanics, and various support staff, and it needs them now. How many young people are out there that don’t know about Oshkosh, that don’t know about the opportunities and the growth of our industry? We owe it to ourselves and our industry to communicate this to these young people. The media isn’t writing about it, and the guidance counselors aren’t talking either. It is up to us.
American Flyers offers its Young Eagles Program to promote the benefits of aviation for young people. These students learn about aviation through ground and simulator sessions as they gradually progress into the airplane. You can see the excitement in their eyes as they discover the new world that lies ahead of them in aviation.
We all know that the future for aviation is bright. We also know that we are the stewards of this industry, and it is up to us to make this happen. We can attract more and more of these younger people through professionalism in training and instructors as role models. So what are we waiting for?