Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Let’s Get The Kids Involved

Opportunities are ripe for the next generation of pilots

In keeping with the bylaws of ethnocentrism, everyone judges the rest of the world by their own standards.

By that criterion, I'm curious as to what has happened to the youth movement in aviation. We keep hearing about the pending pilot shortage, but it seems few young people are stepping up to take advantage of those professional pilot opportunities. It's true, airline flying isn't nearly as lucrative as it used to be, but it can still be a fairly decent living once you get past the initial operating experience and the first few years of food stamp pay rates.

Like many of you, I dreamed of becoming a pilot as far back as I can remember. In my case, my first flight was in the back of a J-3 Cub in Anchorage, Alaska, at age 13. The owner, Floyd Blethen, was a senior member of the Anchorage Civil Air Patrol and used his airplane regularly on SAR missions in central Alaska.

Blethen's Cub had been upgraded from its original 65 hp Continental to an 85 hp engine, so he liked to call it a Super Cub. On that first flight in late November and on many subsequent missions, I discovered the heater in Blethen's airplane was definitely not "super."

When I made that first flight, Anchorage was covered in snow, so Blethen had converted his J-3 from wheels to skis. Apparently, just to give a kid a thrill, he flew me across the Cook Inlet to a meadow covered in several feet of undisturbed powdery snow and flew several touch-and-go landings so I could watch the feathery rooster tails of white powder spiral back off the tips of the skis.

With an enthusiasm born of ignorance, I did practically anything to earn flight time: section-washing airplanes outside in 20-degree temperatures, holding flashlights for mechanics forced to work outside in the dark of day (there were only about four hours of daylight in deep winter), running errands for senior members and generally trying to endear myself to anyone in CAP with an airplane.


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