[Editor’s Note: The following is an edited summary of an article, Nurturing Tomorrow’s Pilots – the future dynamics of US civilian-military aviation, that can be found beginning on page 14 of ICAO Training Report – Number 1 2012. IAFTP is collaborating with the Virtual Flight Academy organization to seek ways in which to grow the number of potential pilots – both military and civilian -- for tomorrow.]
In his book, Talent is Overrated, author Geoff Colvin argues that the average person is apt to “explain away” their lack of excellence because he or she did not have the luck to be born with enough talent. Colvin goes on to demonstrate that the top performers in just about every field earned this status through long-term dedicated, focused and mentored practice starting at a young age.
In the 1990s, the US. Air Force sponsored a study into what makes a student actively seek the career of pilot. The truly “driven” military pilots reported that they first had the dream of being a pilot when they were 12 or 13 – at least four years before any military recruiter could legally approach them.
These were the lucky few. As the adage goes – “Luck” is where the crossroads of “Preparation” and “Opportunity” meet.
The Virtual Flight Academy (VFA) programme is determined to provide unprecedented preparation and operationalize equal opportunity for those willing to dream the dream.
In much the same way as a young person’s basketball talent may be nurtured, the VFA is designed to provide aspiring aviators from all backgrounds with an opportunity to demonstrate their excellence and passion at a young age by developing real aviation skills.
The VFA effectively jumpstarts instruction for aspiring aviators as young as age 12. Once enrolled in the VFA programme, the VFA works with local schools, provides mentors and leverages local community programmes to sustain a long-term relationship of training and preparation with students from middle school through college.
The VFA model uses early entry flight training augmented with individualized “flight plans” to help navigate the course of non-flying requirements to a 4-year university degree in the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) disciplines.
A key goal for the VFA is skill and character development of the student, in addition to aviation skills. Even if a student ultimately chooses to forgo the military pilot path and pursue a civilian aviation or other career, he or she will leave the VFA with an enhanced skill set and improved self-confidence to better contribute in the civilian workforce.
The objective is to design a fun and stimulating environment that increases proficiency and aviation knowledge much earlier than 22 years of age.
The entire package is provided free of charge to aspiring aviators and allows students to work with seasoned former military aviators as volunteers.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Could the Virtual Flight Academy be an answer to the growing competition for skilled aviators?