If you have ever wanted to get into flying (whether it be by becoming a pilot, mechanic, being a passenger or just watching planes), you have come to the right place. I am going to help point you in the proper direction in this multi-part series on getting involved in aviation.
Who can get into Aviation?
The short answer is, anyone. Anyone can become involved in aviation, from one to a hundred years old. It does not discriminate. And your involvement can be as great or as little as you want it to be. For this part, I’ll break it up into age groups.
Children (less than 12 years of age)
This is most important time of person’s life and the best time to get started. There are many options for getting involved at this age, and luckily for parents, it can also be inexpensive. The options that I’ll show here are also available to every other age group.
The simplest way is to get involved in plane spotting at the local airport. Depending on your child’s taste, they may want to see big airliners (e.g. Boeing 777s) or smaller general aviation (e.g. Cessna 172s). It’s good to expose them to both to see all sides of aviation and see where their interests lie. However, I personally recommend going to a smaller, municipal airport with a flight school on site. It’s easier to do and the staff there can answer any questions you or your child may have. It is also much easier for them to get up close and hands on with an airplane. You can also contemplate the option of discovery flights as well. A discovery flight is an introductory flight, usually 30 minutes in length and cost around 50 to 60 dollars.
Grainy, old and Quicktime-style (and possibly stolen) plane spotting in action!
Another great way to get involved at this age is to go to an Aviation Museum. A quick internet search will help locate local museums, many which have activities aimed towards younger children. Depending on where you go, admission can range between free (but, please help out and donate) and $40+ dollars. You can make an entire day out of being at a museum and create some really memorable experiences.
Last, but not least, are airshows. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on that.
Pre-teens and Teenagers (12-19)
There are a couple of more options open to this age group that can help them get more involved. If they have been going to the airport plane spotting as a child, they will have most definitely made contacts and may even be helping out around someone’s hangar or airplane. If they haven’t, then they should start! This is also the perfect age to start applying for summer/part time jobs at an airport. Jobs can range from working the front desk or radio to refuelling & pushing aircraft.
This age also allows youth to join one of the greatest organisations this country has to offer, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. I’ll dive deeper into this in another article, but this youth group is the single greatest way for someone to get involved with aviation and be a good citizen at the same time. Many Canadian pilots (myself included), mechanics, air traffic controllers, operations personnel, managers, engineers, etc., got their start in Air Cadets. (Go here to find out more http://cadets.ca/en/what-cadets-do/air.page?)
If the cadet route is not taken, pilot candidates can start taking flying lessons at age 14, earn a glider licence at 16, and a private licence at 17. Mechanical training usually starts in college and licensing at 21, but anyone can learn and become interested from being around mechanics or get interested in air traffic control at a tower tour.
Everything is open to adults; flight training, mechanics apprenticeships, college, university, air traffic control school. The possibilities are endless.
As I said in the introduction to this series, there are plenty of ways for everyone of all age groups to get involved in aviation, hopefully this has got you started in the right direction. Look out for ‘Part II: What can I do?’ for a deeper look into aviation related activities.