AUBURN, IND. (WPTA21)-It’s the number one challenge facing the airline industry, a severe shortage of pilots. Officials say twenty thousand new pilots are needed right now in the U. S. alone and the problem will only get worse.
In a small hanger at the Dekalb County Airport Geoff Robison is bringing a vintage Cessna back to life. Robison is with the local chapter of the Vintage Aircraft Association, the VAA, and this is its headquarters. The VAA is dedicated to preserving historic airplanes but also getting the younger generation interested in aviation as a career.
“It’s very important to us to be able to reach out to younger people,” says VAA Chapter 37 president Craig Bartscht. “The Young Eagles program that we have is a good opportunity to do that.”
In 1992 the VAA’s parent organization, the Experimental Aircraft Association launched the Young Eagles program, offering kids free airplane rides, information and encouragement to interest them in aviation. Two million kids have taken part in the program with many of them now working in aviation. Geoff Robison took a young eagle for his first flight in 1998 and years later got a text from him.
“Texted me a picture from the airliner he was flying over Fort Wayne Indiana as he’s flying over,” he says. “He just wanted to say ‘hi’!”
The VAA is a social organization too, the local chapters 60 members meet regularly at their Dekalb County headquarters to take care of business and also for movies, banquets and just to have fun. But they take their mission very seriously and if commercial aviation continues to thrive in America it will be in part thanks to this club and others like it across the country, who use classic airplanes of yesterday to guarantee we will all still be flying tomorrow.