The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and Department of Commerce led a delegation of young pilots and other people who represented the Sooner State at the recent Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture air show and convention held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Ada, Ardmore, Bartlesville, McAlester and Tulsa were among Oklahoma cities represented at the aerospace showcase, which attracted more than 600,000 people representing 93 nations.
EAA AirVenture, staged at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, located between Milwaukee and Green Bay, tied a record this year for participation, organizers reported. According to CEO and Chairman Jack Pelton, more than 3,300 show planes, including some 1,400 vintage aircraft, 1,000 home builds, 380 “war birds,” 194 ultra lights, 65 C-planes and 52 aerobatic aircraft helped make up the tapestry of planes on the field.
More than 74,000 people camped under aircraft or in RVs during the weeklong event.
According to a release from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, hundreds of Oklahomans posted on social media about their experiences at the showcase, which marked its 71st anniversary this year. Among them were three students from Ada, John David Muse, Zane Hudspeth and David Anderson, who spoke at an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association breakfast held to express thanks to donors and veteran pilots who have contributed to the “You Can Fly” program.
The program, launched in Oklahoma in 2017, has evolved to where it now provides high school aviation a curriculum for more than 80 schools.
“Oklahoma public education is making pilots, and that is pretty incredible,” State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies said. “Watching these young men tell their Oklahoma aviation story to a crowd of pilots from across the United States brought the hard work of our commission staff over the past four years into full focus.”
Ardies said Oklahoma students leave their high school programs prepared to enter postsecondary aviation programs and ultimately to take rewarding jobs in the aerospace industry.
“I think I can speak for AOPA in saying that the curriculum is doing exactly what it was designed to do, which is to meet a critical need to address not only the pilot shortage but an overarching aerospace tone,” he said.
Paula Kedy, aerospace and aviation education coordinator at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said the AOPA You Can Fly curriculum is offered free to schools, and schools in Oklahoma are using it to build extraordinary aviation programs.
“I think that the students from Ada High School that spoke to the impact that the AOPA curriculum has had on their career choices are representative of thousands of students across the country that are benefiting from the AOPA “You Can Fly” High School Aviation Curriculum. In many cases, the curriculum has changed the trajectory of these students’ lives,” she said.