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Aviation career day inspires next generation of pilots

EAA Chapter 180 was one of several airline organizations that were represented at Universal Flight Services’ inaugural career day.
EAA Chapter 180 was one of several airline organizations that were represented at Universal Flight Services’ inaugural career day. msmoore@bradenton.com

Crowds of people gathered around airplanes, mingling with one another and manning booths during Universal Flight Services’ inaugural aviation career day.

The event, which took place on Thursday at 8140 15th Street E., aimed to connect those interested in aviation-related jobs with industry professionals. It featured more than eight tables at any given time, including PSA Airlines, Silver Airways, Endeavor Air and more.

Jacob Kyser, the director of operations and vice president of Universal Flight Services, which hosted the event, hopes it was the first of many. He said he would ideally like to hold events such as Thursday’s every six-to-nine months.

“This is the first event of its kind in Sarasota. We’re super excited to foster the growth of the industry and develop the next generation of aviation,” Kyser said.

Developing the next generation of aviation was a top priority for many of the organizations present. For the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Young Eagles program, it’s everything.

Founded in 1992, the Young Eagles program gives kids ages 8-17 their first free airplane ride as a way of “inspiring the next generation of aviators.” During its 25 years of existence, the program has flown more than 2 million kids with the help of pilots who volunteer their time, service and fuel.

The local chapter, EAA 180, serves a free pancake breakfast and provides youth flights at 9 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month at Dolphin Aviation on the west side of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. They fly more than 200 Young Eagles each year.

You truly are, in a sense, defying gravity. There’s just something about being able to lift a giant metal lump into the sky.

Malcolm Moniz, a 16-year-old junior at Pine View School in Sarasota

Chip Miller remembers flying out of Sarasota Bradenton airport as a kid in the 1960s as part of the Pennies-a-Pound program, a tradition in which pilots gave airplane rides to the public for just a penny-per-pound of a passenger’s weight. Now, as program coordinator for EAA Chapter 180’s Young Eagles program, Miller has come full circle.

“They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch — well, this is a free breakfast,” Miller said. “This is not just for the guys, it’s for the girls, too. The sky is the limit.”

Miller said that while growing up, his father thought he was too old to become a pilot. Instead, his father encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Miller said that when he earned his private pilot license in 2004, it was one of the proudest moments of his life. Although he never got to fly with his dad, he hopes to pass down his childhood dreams to the youth of today.

“This could be the beginning of their entire flight career,” he said.

The Young Eagles weren’t the only ones looking to help today’s youth fly high.

2 millionThe approximate number of kids who have received free flights courtesy of the Young Eagles program.

Also at the career day were the Sarasota Ladybugs, the local chapter of the Ninety-Nines. According to its website, the Ninety-Nines are an international organization with a focus of promoting the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and support while sharing their passion for flight.

Established in 1929 by 99 women pilots, the organization’s first president was Amelia Earhart. The local chapter was founded a little more than a year ago and was at the event raising funds for a scholarship that will be awarded to “one lucky pilot to help her reach her dreams in aviation” on March 15, 2018.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxilary of the United States Air Force, also was there.

According to Captain Ann Marie Kozloski, CAP is responsible for approximately 80 to 90 percent of continental U.S inland search and rescues.

“We’re the best kept secret in the United States,” she said.

Jacob Kyser, the director of operations and vice president of Universal Flight Services, which hosted the event, hopes it was the first of many. He said he would ideally like to hold events such as Thursday’s every six-to-nine months.

Founded in 1941, the non-profit has a three-tiered mission: emergency services, aerospace education and their cadet program.

The Cadet program takes kids ages 12-18 and focuses on areas such as leadership, aerospace education, character development, physical fitness and military courtesies. Kozloski said that they have had graduates of the Cadet program go to West Point and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as those who have gone straight into the military. Their most recent cadet commander is currently at Parris Island in South Carolina training to become a member of the Marine Corps, she said.

When Kyser, Miller or Kozloski talk about developing the next generation of aviation, they are talking about kids such as Malcolm Moniz.

Moniz, 16, was in attendance Thursday. A junior at Pine View School in Sarasota, he hopes to attend Embry-Riddle before joining the military. When he isn’t interning at Universal Flight Services, he spends his time working on an airplane that he is building. Moniz plans to have his private pilot license by the time he turns 17, the minimum age requirement for powered flight.

When he was younger and went on commercial flights with his father as passengers, his dad, who was working toward his pilot license at the time, would show him how to maneuver the plane via imaginary controls. Afterward, Moniz would go home and meticulously research everything he could about flight instructions.

“You truly are, in a sense, defying gravity,” he said. “There’s just something about being able to lift a giant metal lump into the sky.”

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