AV8Rs. The program, which is free, is open to youths between 13 and 18 years old and is intended to spur interest in aviation among young people.
According to the AOPA, the initiative is designed to make an early connection with students who may have an aviation interest and “raise awareness of aviation and flight through education, engagement, cultivation and support.” The organization hopes that the AV8Rs will help to reverse the decline in the U.S. pilot population. Increasing costs and a slow economy have combined to shrink the number of pilots at an alarming rate according to Forbes.
The free membership in AV8Rs includes a membership card, an AV8Rs sling bag, and a digital subscription to Flight Training magazine. Additionally, there are AOPA AV8R communities on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, tumblr and Youtube. There is also a newsletter, an AV8R blog written by teens and a help line for young prospective pilots. AV8Rs will also have the chance to win flight training scholarships.
Students interested in aviation have several other options as well. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle program offers free flights for young people between ages 8 and 17. The Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet Program is oriented around the organization’s military background as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The Boy Scouts of America offers Aviation Exploring as one of its programs for older teens. Several other aviation organizations also offer scholarships.
Since 9/11, many have lamented that increased security has made aviation inaccessible to many kids. The airport fence is now tightly controlled at many airports. The Great Recession and rising fuel prices have made it more difficult to afford flying lessons. Airline bankruptcies, pay cuts, and furloughs mean that the incentive for many prospective pilots is gone. Perhaps programs like AOPA’s AV8Rs will help to restore an interest in aviation among America’s students.
To join AV8Rs, register at the AOPA website.