Words by Jenny Lynn Davis | Images by Justin Hunter and Courtesy of Operation Aviation Foundation
Operation Aviation Foundation (OAF) recently concluded its inaugural Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camp, leaving a trail of inspiration and dreams in its wake.
As a non-profit organization, OAF is dedicated to enlightening young minds about the multitude of careers available in the field of aviation, particularly among underrepresented and underserved communities. The three-day camp, held at Sanders Aviation and Flight Training Center in Jasper, provided attendees aged 12-16 with an immersive experience, combining education, practical training, and exposure to industry professionals.
In a previous conversation with The Walker Leader, Jessica Sanders Walker, Vice President of Sanders Aviation and Sanders Flight Training Center and founding board member of OAF, said, “When exposed to aviation at a young age, children are more likely to seek it professionally in the future. All it takes is that lightbulb moment when a child sees that this is an attainable career to pursue. Our goal is to create a space where children feel welcomed in the aviation world no matter their background, along with recognizing that they can accomplish a career in the field of aviation.”
ACE Camp participants learned from a comprehensive curriculum that delved into various facets of aviation careers. Led by industry professionals, campers embarked on an exciting journey exploring STEM principles tied to flight. They delved into the theory of flight, the history and evolution of aviation, and learned practical skills in flight planning, maintenance, air traffic control, and meteorology.
One of the many highlights of ACE Camp was the STEM Aerospace Symposium, where campers had the opportunity to learn directly from distinguished figures in the aerospace industry. Esteemed guests included Tim Crumbley from NASA, Justine Molina from Northrop Grumman, Ana Benet from Stratolaunch, and Kathy Byars, Executive Officer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
ACE Camp went beyond theoretical knowledge, allowing campers to experience the thrill of aviation firsthand. Flight simulators allowed participants to step into the virtual cockpit and soar through the skies, gaining an understanding of the intricacies of piloting. Campers were also taken on discovery flights, offering a perspective from the air and a firsthand taste of what it’s like to be part of the aviation community.
ACE Camp drew to a close with a winging ceremony to celebrate the achievements of its aspiring aviators. Each camper was recognized for their dedication and commitment throughout the camp, symbolically receiving their “wings” as a testament to their newfound knowledge and passion for aviation.
During the closing ceremony, Jessica Sanders Walker expressed appreciation and gratitude for ACE Camp’s many sponsors, partners, donors, volunteers, board members, and guest speakers, stating that without them, the camp would not have been possible. WL