Written by Elaine Paniszczyn
Over 3,000 elementary, middle and high school students attended the 10th annual Aviation & Transportation Career Expo on Oct. 4 at American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum to learn about potential careers in aviation and transportation. Some learners had a gleam in their eyes and dreams in their hearts, already yearning for careers in aviation.
“The Aviation Expo provides our next generation of leaders with a chance to visualize a career in aviation or transportation,” said Phil Ritter, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s (DFW) executive vice president for government and stakeholder affairs. “You can see the smiles and the wonder on the faces of these kids, and we are proud to open their imaginations to the myriad of opportunities that await in the skies and the roadways of the future.
“CR Smith is one of the great museums in Texas and does an outstanding job of telling the history of aviation in our region and for American Airlines,” Ritter said. “It’s a wonderful thing today that so many career aviation industry personnel will be able to visit with young students who are looking at careers in the aviation industry. It represents the beginning and the end of the workforce pipeline in aviation.
“The FAA and Customs and Border Protection and some of our other federal partners have been a big part of the Expo, and they’re unable to be here because of the furlough caused by the government shutdown,” Ritter said. “We’re going to miss them, but there are plenty of other things for these kids to see and do, and maybe it’s a little bit of a civics lesson for the students today.”
Captain William Sheriff, who has flown 19 years for American Airlines (AA), said he had been asking students what they want to do when they grow up.
“A lot of them have never been asked that question,” Sheriff said. “Some say they want to be pilots or engineers. Some say they want to be lawyers, but it really got them thinking what they really do want to do when they grow up.”
Years ago, a career day at his elementary school sparked Sheriff’s dream to be an airline pilot.
“Captain Dave Harris, the first black pilot hired by American Airlines, spoke to our class,” Sheriff said. “That set it off for me.”
Captain Jeff Rowland has flown AA’s planes for 29 years.
“I learned to fly in Colleyville, TX, on a grass airport by the elementary school,” Rowland said. “As a 14-year-old kid, it was extremely exciting. I tell these kids we need good people in the business, and they ought to think about it, especially the ones down in Irving. They see these things fly over all the time.
“There’s two or three people flying some of our planes, and we need good people to do this,” Rowland said. “That’s how it gets started – the gleam in their eyes at that age.”
Students from Irving High School’s Aviation Program attended the expo and had that ‘gleam in their eyes.’