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Test Flights for Aviation Careers

September 10, 2018

Women and minorities have been an essential part of the aviation industry since the beginning, and are succeeding today in nearly every aviation occupation. To continue this success, it’s essential to develop a diverse workforce early by teaching students about the possibilities of a career in aviation and how it meshes with their skills and interests. 

On Tuesday, August 21, 100 students from local high schools participated in Project Lift, where they learned about careers in aviation, airport operations, aerospace, and skilled trades from area airport directors.  The event also inspired them to explore. 

“You are our next leaders here in the Northwest, in the aviation, aerospace, and the Port of Seattle,” said Therese Tipton, Principal of Raisbeck Aviation High School

This workshop was part of the 34th Annual Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) Airport Business Diversity Conference at the Westin. The Port of Seattle was one of the sponsors of the event which brought together more than 1,000 businesses, aviation professionals, government officials, and individuals from around the country to discuss subjects ranging from how to do business at airports to educating, advocating, and networking opportunities in the industry.

“We are determined that the growth in the aviation industry benefits all communities and that the aviation industry be as diverse as the people it serves,” said Commission President Courtney Gregoire. “That means ensuring that women, minority-owned, and disadvantaged businesses have the same opportunities to compete for business and that women, minorities, and disadvantaged workers know about and have the same opportunities to train for career opportunities in the aviation industry.”

The hands-on training class for students attracted several participating organizations:

  • Raisbeck Black Student Union and Women in Aviation students 
  • King County International Airport high school interns 
  • Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club
  • South Park/Georgetown youth
  • Seattle Goodwill Renton aerospace program 
  • Port of Seattle's summer high school interns
  • Museum of Flight’s summer high school interns

Career planningProject LIft

The students participated in an icebreaker activity and answered the following questions to get them thinking about their interests, skills, and potential career paths. A few of the questions they were asked:

  • Are you a team player?
  • Do you learn better by seeing and experiencing things?
  • Do you enjoy planning?
  • Can you multitask?
  • Do you often think “How can I improve this?”
  • Do you embrace rules?
  • Do you possess a strong attention to detail?
  • Do you enjoy tinkering with things and working with your hands?
  • Do you prefer looking into one topic in-depth or many topics at large?
  • Are you patient?

The quiz helped to narrow down their career field into four different profiles:

  • Negotiator
  • Visionary
  • Problem solver
  • Maker

Hands-on inspiration

The event highlight was the hands-on exercises. With the assistance of panelists from aviation professions, the students participated in industry-specific and skill building activities: Build, Fly, Launch, and Operate. They learned how to creatively collaborate with each other and solve problems unique and unfamiliar situations. 

  • BUILD: a parachute building challenge using two vertical wind tunnels and assorted supplies. The goal was to see whose design could fly smoothly and the highest
  • FLY: plan a short flight with unforeseen circumstances from Boeing Field to Paine Field with help from pilots with Mesa Airlines, the Latino Pilots Association, Boeing, and Cape Air 
  • LAUNCH: a pilot and member of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, as part of Suited for Space program and an engineer from Blue Origin to help students learn about air pressure and design a suit for a marshmallow space man and his space supplies
  • OPERATE: learn how to prioritize work-related tasks from a Fleet Manager for King County International Airport – Boeing Field in Seattle

AfStudents building a parachuteter each activity, panelists debriefed with students about how the skills used and the challenges they experienced applied to a specific career. As students are just beginning to explore their strengths and career interests, panelists expressed the importance of trial and error and to not be afraid of failure. The panelists stressed that their successes did not come without set-backs or obstacles, and that building skills and continuous hard work are essential for success.  

Alaska Airlines pilot Ron Limes told the group of students they are capable of doing what they want, but they first have to put in the work.

“Work hard, treat people the way you want to be treated, and when doors open, walk through them,” he said. “If you do good work, doors are going to open for you — but it takes courage to walk through that door.”

The program also introduced students to the Museum of Flight’s educational programs:

Aeronautical Science Pathway
Guides you to a career as a professional pilot or in aviation operations management

Private Pilot Ground School
Get the tools to start a career as a professional pilot

Western Aerospace Scholars
Research and plan a mission to Mars and beyond

Dreams take flightTwo female students try an aviation experiment

For two students at Auburn Mountainview High School, Project Lift was a chance for them to be around and learn from others who share their passion for aviation. 

Alexandra Reyes has wanted to be a pilot since the first grade when she boarded her first flight from the Philippines to Hong Kong.

“I was amazed at how this piece of metal floats in the sky and is controlled by two pilots,” said the incoming junior at Auburn Mountainview.

Stuti Dahal said her dream of being a pilot is connected to “that feeling of freedom to be able to fly through the sky.”

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