Inaugural Oklahoma Student Pilot Day Held in Tulsa
On Thursday, April 6th, over 400 students and educators made the journey to American Airlines Hangar 80 at Tulsa International Airport to attend the first-ever Oklahoma Student Pilot Day.
Students gathered at the event presented by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission in partnership with American Airlines, Tulsa Air and Space Museum, the Oklahoma Air National Guard, and Tulsa International Airport. Those in attendance learned about the various Oklahoma aerospace and aviation careers as they explored aircraft static displays, simulators, and exhibits at Hangar 80 and the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. This event was made possible by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 625 workforce development grant that the Commission received.
American Airlines team members spoke to the students sharing their first-hand experience about the various careers at the Tech Ops – Tulsa maintenance base, where the airline conducts nearly half of its overall aircraft maintenance work. Additionally, representatives from the American Cadet Academy provided information about opportunities to join the academy.
Special guests included Retired Navy Captain John Keilty and Brigadier General Tray Siegfried. Keilty is a 26-year retired Naval Aviator and was last stationed at Tinker Air Force Base where he served as the Commodore of the TACAMO unit. He is currently serving as an instructor for Del City Public Schools. Siegfried is also a long-time pilot and holds an Airline Transport Pilot Rating, several jet-type ratings, and is the Assistant Adjutant General for the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Both Keilty and Siegfried shared their inspiring stories of how they started aviation careers and how any of the students they were addressing could be future aviators.
Throughout the day students had the chance to meet with professionals in the industry, including over 50 members from the 137th Special Operations Wing and 138th Fighter Wing from Oklahoma, and the 188th Wing from the Arkansas Air National Guard in Fort Smith.
“AOPA has created the amazing You Can Fly initiative, which is all about building the aviation community, getting more people into the skies, and encouraging kids to pursue an aerospace career. The centerpiece of the You Can Fly program is the unique High School STEM curriculum that is available to schools across the state,” said State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies. “In the past school year, more than 12,000 students in 1,000 classrooms across the country, in all four grades, took the curriculum and learned about exciting careers in aviation. We want to ensure every Oklahoma student has been given the opportunity to explore aviation and aerospace as a career opportunity.”
For the 2022-2023 school year, Oklahoma was ranked #1 in the nation for the number of schools teaching aviation and aerospace curriculum at the high school level. 57 schools are currently teaching the AOPA “You Can Fly” program and 7 schools are teaching the Choose Aerospace Maintenance program.
"Last fall 57 schools in Oklahoma started teaching the AOPA program. Next year we expect nearly 80 high schools will be teaching aerospace and aviation in the classroom with the purpose to build a quality workforce for an industry that is so critical to Oklahoma's economy," said Paula Kedy, Aerospace and Aviation Education Coordinator for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. "Aerospace and aviation is Oklahoma's second leading industry, and as such it behooves our schools to prepare their students to work in Oklahoma and hopefully stay in Oklahoma."
Schools in attendance were Ada, Alva, Bartlesville, Bristow, Deer Creek, ECHO Home School Consortium, Enid, Ketchum, McAlester, Mustang, Norman, Okmulgee, Pawhuska, Ponca City, Pryor, Sand Springs, Tri-County Tech, Weatherford, and Wyandotte.