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Look, up in the sky, it’s a . . . job unfilled

from The News-Journal (Daytona Beach, FL)
January 7, 2008

I’ve been involved with and enamored by aviation for 12 years, beginning at age 12 when I took my first flight. Although I loved flying and the joy it brought me, it never occurred to me at that time that I would spend my entire working career in it — and earn a decent living by it.

For the past three years, I’ve been traveling the country speaking to thousands of middle-school kids about aviation and careers it offers. My alma mater has been sponsoring these 20-city tours since I was a junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I’ve been telling these students, as I share my story, that a career in aviation is possible and attainable. I recently read that aviation is in need of pilots and air traffic controllers; that there is a worldwide shortage of pilots. As evidenced by some airlines canceling flights, the shortage is here and now.

In early 2000, aviation and its related economic activity totaled $976 billion, which, at the time, was greater than the gross national product of all but the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and China. It is a very large, diverse and exciting industry. The industry employs almost 11 million people, who earned $278 billion in wages and salaries in the early 2000s, and the industry, as a whole, has a tendency to provide higher wages than other industries.

In addition, very few industries are so involved in national pride (Apollo missions), protection (defense) and economic activities (general aviation and airline passenger and freight operations).

There always will be a need for the aviation/aerospace industry; we will always need people to fly and maintain aircraft. Therefore, there is significant job security. By the end of 2008, 27 percent of the current industry work force will be eligible to retire. This will create tremendous opportunities for newcomers to the industry — beginning now.

A wide range of different career fields is also available in the aviation and aerospace industry. Traditional careers such as pilots (military, airline, corporate), air traffic controllers and mechanics are available. But there is a substantial number of careers that most people do not consider, such as aeronautical engineering, airport management, aviation medical examiners and aviation attorneys. So though employment numbers seem to be tottering in many industries, opportunities abound in the aviation sector.

Critical to a career in aviation is getting an education that is focused on the business. That’s my mantra when speaking to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade children. In order to become a competent member in the aviation industry, additional or “focused” schooling is vital.

Today, I am involved in the business side of aviation. For the past three years, I’ve been an ambassador for the Federal Aviation Administration with a focus on safety and careers. And when I encourage young people to pursue their studies and consider aviation, I assure them that opportunity really is a reality and available for all. As an African-American, I can attest to it. My greatest joy is still piloting a plane through the wild blue yonder.

Larkins is national spokesman for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, FAA ambassador for Aviation & Space Education and a consultant for several aviation organizations. He still flies as an aerobatic air-show pilot.

Public Relations Contact: Rosica Strategic Public Relations