AOPA Helping Reduce Pilot Shortage

It’s administering a STEM course in some high schools in the US.


Frederick, Md (KM). There’s a serious shortage of pilots and other aviation professionals, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is doing something about it. The AOPA will be  implementing its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program this fall in more than 160 schools in 35 states.

“We have six schools here Maryland that are using the program, including both public and private schools. St. John’s Catholic Prep in Buckeystown will using it in the coming school year, and so will Magruder High School in Rockville. We’ve also got Kenwood High School in Baltimore,” says Elizabeth Tennyson, Executive Director of the You Can Fly High School initiative, which is working at growing and implementing  aviation STEM programs in high schools across the country.

Tennyson says right now, the program is available for 9th and 10th graders, but efforts are underway to develop a curriculum for 11th and 12th graders. AOPA says 25 schools will be testing  an 11th grade curriculum for the 2019-2020 academic year.

She says the program starts in the 9th grade, where students learn about the many careers in aviation. “Everything from piloting to UAS operations, drone flying, to air traffic control, maintenance, dispatch. There are lots of careers and our 9th graders learn about that,” says Tennyson. “Then in 10th and 11th grade, they go on to learn about the things they need to take a private pilot knowledge test, or a Part 107 test, that’s the FAA license to fly drones commercially.”

The program is quite new, but so far, Tennyson says, student response has been positive. “We hear from teachers that they have students showing up ahead of class for the first time ever. The test pass rates are very high. The grades for students who are taking these classes are high. So the students are really engaged and excited about the opportunities that these classes open up for them,” she says.

AOPA says there’s a growing demand for aviation industry jobs. The organization, citing a 2018 study by Boeing, says there will be a need for 790,000 civil aviation pilots; 754,000 technicians; and 890,000 cabin crew members over the next 20 years across the world.

“I would love for schools to know that this curriculum is completely free to them,” says Tennyson. “It is funded by generous donors to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Foundation. And so we’re able to provide this completely free of charge to any school that wants to participate.”

To more on this program, you can go on line to


By Kevin McManus