Advancing Aerospace Education in K-12: Building a Skilled Workforce for the Future

The Virginia Aviation Business Association (VABA) emphasizes the urgent need for aerospace education in grades K-12 to address the industry's workforce shortage. Research highlights the importance of sparking interest in aerospace careers during students' formative years, particularly in middle school. The aerospace industry encompasses aviation, space exploration, drones, and advanced air mobility.

Aerospace faces a severe shortage across all disciplines, exacerbated by the rapid retirement of aging professionals. To tackle this, we must foster interest and awareness among students. However, several barriers hinder our efforts:

  1. Lack of Awareness: Many are unaware of the diverse opportunities in aerospace.
  2. High Cost of Training: Financial barriers deter aspiring professionals.
  3. Limited Focus in Education: Aviation pathways lack emphasis in grades K-12.
  4. Disparity in Diploma Recognition: Conflicting diploma recognition discourages technical fields.
  5. Resistance to Change: Funding formulas and cultural resistance hinder program implementation.

The VABA proposes an Integrated Aviation Innovation, Flight Training, and Maintenance Program across collegiate, technical, and high school levels. This would create a talent pool for various sectors, addressing the industry's demand.

Virginia possesses untapped potential among its youth. With proper education, diverse candidates can pursue aerospace careers upon graduation.

To support this initiative, we must establish aviation-related STEM programs at high school and middle school levels, particularly in underperforming districts, and capitalize on the many resources available through collaboration with organizations like the Civil Air Patrol, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Virginia Space Grant Consortium, community colleges and more. Through these collaborations our school systems can expand the talent pool and offer unique training opportunities leading to both certificates and degrees.

Investing in aerospace education not only prepares students for rewarding careers but also contributes to Virginia's aerospace industry growth. By breaking down barriers and fostering innovation, we can ensure Virginia's continued aerospace leadership.

In conclusion, aerospace education in grades K-12 is crucial for our students' future and Virginia's prosperity. We urge policymakers at all levels to prioritize aerospace education and workforce development initiatives. Together, we can cultivate the next generation of aerospace leaders and propel Virginia's industry forward.



In addition to being pollen season in Virginia, it’s also aviation education and outreach season for the Department of Aviation. If you haven’t seen our ICON A5 out on the highways and byways, it’s only because you have your eyes on the skies. Whether it’s during the school week or on the weekends, the Communications and Education team has been delivering the Introduction to Flight program to dozens of schools and aviation-themed events at the public-use airports all across the Commonwealth. And they are fully booked through November! This small team (Betty Wilson, David Halstead, Tony Sotelo and Kim Anderson) is making a big impact as they endeavor to inspire the next generation of aviation professionals. I couldn’t be prouder of the work they are doing.

In addition to our in-state efforts, we also took our aviation education trailer down to Lakeland, Florida, for Sun ‘n Fun 2024. This year’s event was the 50th anniversary of the East Coast’s largest fly-in, and DOAV has been there for more than 40 of them. We got to interact directly with hundreds of Virginia-based pilots as well as hundreds of pilots from across the country and around the globe. We answered their questions, and we were able to extol the virtues of flying in the Commonwealth. We listened to dozens of pilots as they complimented the quality of Virginia’s public-use airports – especially when compared to the airports in their home states! I’ve always known that we have some of the best airports in the United States, but it was gratifying to hear others say just that.

Shifting gears a bit, I’m proud to announce that Senior Aviation Planner Scott Denny has become Virginia’s first Advanced Air Mobility Program Manager. For those of you who know Scott, I’m certain that you feel as we do -- he’s simply the best person for this new role. In addition to his 23 years at the DOAV, Scott is an experienced pilot who holds CFII, AGI, Commercial and Instrument ratings. He served as a code compliance officer in James City County and was a planning officer for the City of Chesapeake. And he authored the model Uncrewed Aerial Systems ordinance for localities. He’s truly a terrific resource that will work with local governments and the AAM industry to help integrate this new mode of transportation safely into the National Airspace System and ensure it becomes a welcome addition to the communities we serve.

Here's to blue skies and favorable tailwinds!

Scott Denny, DOAV Advanced Air Mobility Program Manager

Get to Know Senator Bill DeSteph

Co-Chair of 2024 Virginia General Assembly Aviation and Aerospace Caucus

A Desert Storm veteran, Senator Bill DeSteph served in the United States Navy, both as a chief petty officer and as a naval special-warfare intelligence officer. Senator DeSteph brings a strong interest in aerospace from his military service as well as the major presence of military aviation in the Hampton Roads Region. 

Senator DeSteph’s political career began in Virginia Beach, serving on City Council, before running and being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and now the Senate of Virginia. DeSteph contributes much of his energy and resources to his district, which encompasses the Eastern Shore of Virginia as well as the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. He has spent time coaching youth sports as well as volunteering for a number of organizations, including Special Olympics Virginia, the Boy Scouts of America, Law Enforcement United, and the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center. 

Senator DeSteph’s interest in aerospace inspired him to work with the VABA to re-form the Virginia General Assembly Aviation and Aerospace Caucus (VGAAC) in the 2024 session, promoting workforce and other initiatives to ensure the Commonwealth remains business-friendly to the aviation and aerospace industry. Along with Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, Delegate Karrie Delaney (D-9, Fairfax), Delegate Paul Milde (R-64, Stafford) and Senator Russet Perry (D-31, Leesburg), Senator DeSteph co-led the VGAAC to meet weekly during the 2024 General Assembly Session, receiving briefings from a number of speakers and tracking numerous bills impacting the sector.

“I am honored to co-chair the VGAAC. In the Navy I was keenly aware of the important role our aviation partners played in the success of military operations,” said Senator DeSteph. “As a legislator, I understand the significance of aviation and aerospace on the success of the Commonwealth. We must prepare the workforce of tomorrow by supporting aviation and aerospace today. It is imperative that we encourage initiatives that grow these vital sectors. The future of our Commonwealth depends on it.” 

One of these important initiatives centers around Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). SAF is an alternative fuel made from non-petroleum feedstocks that can reduce emissions from air transportation. Benefits include engine and infrastructure compatibility; fewer emissions; and more flexibility.

In the 2024 legislative session, Senator DeSteph carried SJ 127, Sustainable Aviation Fuel. This legislation encouraged Virginia to take all practical steps to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuel in the Commonwealth, regionally, and nationally.

“Virginia can and should be a leader in aviation and aerospace. And Sustainable Aviation Fuel is critical to the future of the aviation and aerospace industry in Virginia,” said DeSteph. “Not only will the economic and environmental benefits affect all Virginians, but the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel across all 66 public airports in the Commonwealth will make Virginia more competitive for economic development opportunities. This can only be a win for citizens statewide.”

As the VGAAC continues its work off-session, it will provide legislators with opportunities to learn more about aviation and aerospace in the Commonwealth and beyond, including the use of SAF, workforce and other growth opportunities, as well as advancing educational prospects for students.

What Are eVTOLs? Are They the Future of Aviation?

Electricity-powered flying taxis are almost ready for liftoff.


Electric aerial ridesharing? Flying taxis? The sky could one day have a new aircraft cutting through it — one that’s much quieter, with fewer emissions, and that’s potentially safer than helicopters and even planes. These aircraft are called eVTOLs.

Outside of testing, eVTOLs haven’t taken to the skies in the United States, according to Farhan Gandhi, director of the Center for Mobility with Vertical Lift (MOVE) and director of the aerospace program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

While Gandhi believes eVTOL aircrafts will soon be ready to fly outside of testing, certification by the Federal Aviation Administration will take time.

According to Gandhi, negotiations between eVTOL companies and the FAA are ongoing, but companies will ultimately have to prove to regulators that these aircrafts can operate safely. To do that, they’ll have to show what recovery mechanisms will be in place if there’s some sort of mechanical failure.

Read the article in full here.

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