As a parent, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a tiny spark of excitement light up in the eyes of a child when they experience something for the first time.
The Montana AOPA Fly-in gave me and Matt (@wingedaviation) an opportunity to to talk to some of the youngest attendees as part of the AOPAFlyByCrew. It’s fun to see the expressions on their sweet faces as they roam through the ramp full of airplanes. Through their eyes, no matter what type of plane, they must all seem so large. Their excitement is contagious.
Aviation tends to be a family affair, and usually a child will show interest because they were brought up around it from the time they were very young. It takes just one connection to spark an interest that can ignite downwind for the next generation.
While I didn’t have that growing up, that spark has started with me for my family. Whether my crew takes up aviation as a career choice or not, at least they have been exposed to it at a much earlier age than me. My oldest son is now a crew chief for the USAF Thunderbirds. My daughter has flown with me for her first general aviation flight, and was pleasantly surprised at how much better it was than she imagined. My youngest son has enjoyed several adventures flying to go eat lunch with mom, as well as documenting our flights as the official videographer.
When families attend fly-ins or airshows, you never know what kind of spark might ignite in the imagination of a young one. The connections we as pilots make along the way, may be the little flame that’s needed to kick start an interest in aviation. Many people don’t know where to start or how to even become a pilot. With the shortage of pilots in the industry, we have a responsibility to encourage and share our passion so that others might find the path as well.
While it might not be a hidden path; for some like me, we don’t even know that path exists until we’re shown the way.
Flying is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, and I want my excitement and enthusiasm to flow to others in such a way that they might give it a try, even if they’ve never thought about it before now.
Remember to take the time to talk to the young, tell them what an amazing experience that flying is, and how it could change their life into an incredible adventure if they decide to be a pilot one day. The love of aviation is an intoxicating affair that lasts a lifetime once your hooked. Be sure and spread the love to those starry eyed little ones the next time you see them bouncing down the ramp. You’ll be glad you did.