Saving aviation, through education and inspiration
● By J. Chambless
Attendance at the Future Aviators Camp, held at the New Garden Flying Field, has grown every year since it premiered in 2009.
By Richard L. Gaw
Against the serene motion of planes landing and taking off every day at the New Garden Flying Field in nearby Toughkenamon, there is the staggering reality of numbers and percentages that threaten the future of aviation in the United States.
A 2016 Boeing report shows that 42 percent of the pilots currently flying for the major airlines in the United States will reach their mandatory retirement age of 65 in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between now and 2036, and they will need 637,000 new pilots to fly them.
Juxtaposed against that need, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that in 1987, there were about 827,000 pilots in the U.S., but over the past three decades, that number has decreased by 30 percent.
Meanwhile, federal statistics state that during the past 20 years, more than 250 public-use airports have closed in the U.S.
Over the last decade, the New Garden Flying Field, in partnership with the members of EAA Chapter 240, have waged a strategic and hugely successful battle against those figures, and they've won in spectacular fashion.
First introduced in 2009 to 28 campers, the Future Aviators Summer Camp has introduced over 1,000 young people from ages 7 to 15 to the wonders of flight, drawing campers from all around the U.S., who construct and fly their own model airplane by using fabric, wood and metal; learn the basics of pre-flight planning and navigation; attend the National Air and Space Museum and the Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.; engineer their own simulated flight; and take an introductory flight with a certified instructor.
For many years, the members of Chapter 240, the Flying Field's home EAA chapter, has introduced youngsters to the thrill of flight through its Young Eagles Program, which allows youngsters to go on a private flight with one of the chapter's many registered pilots.
Next month, the Flying Field and EAA Chapter 240 are adding another classroom to their educational mission. On May 18 and 19, the Future Aviators Jamboree Fly-In and Camp Out will further open up the doors of possibility for those youngsters who are interested in pursuing careers in aviation.
The event, which is open to families of young aviators and the general public, will include visits from some of the leading aviation colleges in the U.S., including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Florida Institute of Technology, whose representatives will discuss careers in aviation, and scholarship opportunities and FAA STEM programs that are available.
Youngsters will also enjoy Young Eagle flights with pilots from EAA Chapter 240; see a presentation from the Federal Aviation Administration's FAASTeam; go on hiking tours along the new trail or participate in tours of the flying field; witness a spot landing contest and a hot air balloon glow; and enjoy live music, archery competition, a bonfire, a pasta dinner and an outdoor film. A pancake breakfast will be served on May 18, courtesy of EAA Chapter 240, and a continental breakfast will be available on May 19.
This jamboree will also introduce youngsters to those who aviation professionals – pilots, air traffic control engineers and mechanics -- who were once students at the Flying Field's Future Aviators Camp.
“We want to make this event as interactive as possible, in order to create a dialogue between young people and those in nearly every component of aviation,” said pilot and event organizer Bud Swenson. “These are people who are flying, who are fixing, who can inspire by bringing these young people into their world and introducing them to their own stories.
“Our goal is to engulf and saturate our guests with aviation throughout the entire weekend. It's not just for kids, but for entire families to get involved. We want our parents to hear about scholarship opportunities at these schools. We want them to know that there are some fantastic schools of aviation who offer great programs to get their future aviator into the air.”
“The Jamboree is an extension of the programs that are already here,” said Flying Field General Manager Jon Martin. “It's a multi-layered process that begins early. We get them up in an airplane through our Young Eagles Program, then they spend a summer or several summers at our Future Aviators Camp, but then what? This event answers that, by opening the doors to colleges, scholarship opportunities and careers, for those who wish to pursue their interests in aviation.”
Not only will future aviators soon receive another rung in their young education, they will soon have their own place to hang out and enjoy the view. On the heels of a 2018 fundraising campaign, the Future Aviator Pavilion will be officially unveiled at the May 18-19 Jamboree. Constructed of timer frame, the 30' x 40' structure will be used as a meeting place for all Future Aviator Summer Camp attendees, and is sure to be a prime location for those who attend air shows and other events at the Flying Field.
The Jamboree will also formally dedicate the opening of a nature trail – located just north of the new pavilion – that will offer those attending the Jamboree to take the first walk through.
“The formation of the trail began about two or three years ago, in our efforts to promote our 'Fit to Fly' initiative to work with community partners to establish program that encourage fitness among our pilots,” Martin said. “In return, they will be able to live a healthier lifestyle and be able to retain their pilot's licenses longer.
“The trail also draws those who may not necessarily come out to enjoy the airport. It is our hope that they will see the planes landing and taking off, or maybe stop by one of our programs during their walk, and become interested enough to take the next step with us.”
Tickets for the Future Aviators Jamboree on May 18-19 are available to the general public, and are $30 per person, and includes admission to all activities and seminars, as well as dinner on May 18 and a continental breakfast on May 19. The ticket entitles admission to the 2019 New Garden Festival of Flight, on either Aug. 17 or 18.
To learn more and to register, visit www.newgardenflyingfield.com, or call 610-268-2619. The New Garden Flying Field is located at 1235 Newark Road, Toughkenamon, Pa. 19374.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.