Feb. 7, 2018

Long Beach, California – Giving back to the host cities for NBAA’s events has long been a tradition at the association’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC). Furthermore, the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers available in business aviation has long been a core message of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, jointly sponsored by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The twin themes came together this year, during NBAA’s Schedulers and Dispatchers event, including with a new educational element.

Partnering with the Long Beach Unified School District, the Schedulers & Dispatchers Advisory Council planned activities on Feb. 5 and 6, prior to the opening of SDC2018. On Feb. 5, the council arranged for around-the-world pilot Shaesta Waiz to speak at a local high school, and on Feb. 6, a group of about 30 students toured the general aviation area of Long Beach Airport (LGB) to learn more about career opportunities.

“We have the most giving industry, we’re blessed to call it work,” said council member Amber Finchum, of State Farm, who planned the Pay It Forward educational initiative. “It’s amazing what people are willing to do and to share with these students who have no idea that business aviation exists.”

The students spent more than two hours at the airport, meeting with various tenants, including Signature Flight Support, and hearing about career possibilities. Split into small groups to allow for questions, the students learned about everything from airplane maintenance to flight schools to working at FBOs. Their questions ranged from, “How much does airplane fuel cost?” to “How long does it take to become a pilot?”

Peter Davis, assistant superintendent of high schools for the school district, said, “We’re always trying to give kids work-based learning opportunities, so this is an excellent opportunity for them to learn about aviation.”

And though it’s not an official part of the district’s curriculum right now, that could change in the future.

“Originally it was a one-time thing, but it has become clear that there are additional opportunities for us,” he said.

LGB Airport Director Jess Romo told the students, “Airports need people, and I hope you see that here today – there are many opportunities for folks as young as yourselves. There are jobs and careers for you to explore here.”

That sentiment was echoed by Waiz, who also came out to LGB to meet with students. “So much of the world is connected to airplanes,” she said. “Keep an open mind as you go around and talk to people who are here to support you guys, and share their careers with you. Listen closely, because I never would have thought I would be a pilot and here I am – anything is possible.”

Finchum said if even one student was impacted by hearing Waiz speak, or visiting the airport, the program was a success. And this is just the beginning she said, adding that advisory council members have given their contact information to students and encouraged them to reach out.

“Literally, the sky is the limit for them,” she said. “The impact that this program potentially has for these students, it could be life changing. This really is just the beginning.”