Sept. 29, 2016

Heartland Aeronautical Experience (HAE) is developing a creative approach to exposing students to careers in business aviation – a mobile air traffic control tower classroom.

 “This venue will result in new student starts for the diminishing pilot population, as well as more applicants for air traffic controller positions,” the HAE board says on its website. “Our approach will also result in many new recruits for the many career opportunities in the broad field of the aerospace industry.”

Established in late 2014, the Oklahoma-based, nonprofit organization’s goal is to “be a headhunter,” and show students the diverse spectrum of aerospace career opportunities, as well as give them a goal they can reach by staying in school and taking the classes and training necessary to reach it, said HAE president Bill Beck. The group is now raising funds to construct its mobile classroom, as well as develop curriculum.

Beck said he envisions a 53-foot trailer with a retractable air traffic control tower, and classroom with both fixed-wing and helicopter simulators. Its components will be tailored to the needs of its targeted audiences: elementary through university students, the disabled and veterans, women and ethnic minorities, including the Native Americans that surround the group’s Oklahoma home base.

The curriculum will reinforce the importance of classes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by connecting students to the broad spectrum of aerospace careers. The No Plane No Gain campaign also supports STEM education as a means of bringing more young people into business aviation.

HAE grew out of a successful Youth Aviation Adventure program Beck has organized in Shawnee, OK for the past nine years.

“We realized we could reach many more students if we went mobile,” he said, adding he hopes to have the trailer on the road by the start of school next fall.

“Every year we delay is another graduating class that we cannot inspire,” Beck said.

Learn more about Heartland Aeronautical Experience.