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Symposium Provides Flight Plan for the Next Generation of Aviators

By Shades of Blue Aviation

08/24/2023 at 01:08 PM

Parents seeking to provide their children with early exposure to the in-demand aviation industry converged at Shades of Blue’s two-day aviation symposium at San Bernardino International Airport on Aug. 12 and 13. The symposium was designed to introduce young people to the booming field of aviation and provide a pathway to fill the thousands of projected vacancies.

Rialto resident Vickie Davis brought her two daughters, Alessa, 10, and Allanah, 15, to the symposium as a way to expand their career horizons.

“I just want them to be enriched and have every opportunity to learn what is there for them and know that they can do all of it, any of it, whatever they’re interested in and there is a whole community that is interested in supporting them in pursuing those pathways,” Davis said.

Shades of Blue was founded by retired United Captain Willie Daniels as a way of passing on the same career opportunity he had to future generations. The aviation training program builds a foundation for young people interested in aviation and aerospace careers. The program tracks its students from middle school through college, helps them obtain their pilots license and navigate the airline’s hiring process. NASA pilot Victor Glover is one of the organization’s most notable members.

The 2-day event included hands-on demonstrations with robotics and airplane simulators, career overviews from pilots, flight instructors air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, and flight schools.  

Tareysa Covarrubias heard about the symposium through an ad on Parents Square, an app from the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Her 11-year-old daughter, Alexandria, is currently focused on a career as a singer or dancer, but Corarrubias wants her to be aware of other opportunities and options that are out there.

“I’m always looking for opportunities, so when she grows up and chooses her college major, she’ll be aware of all her choices," said Covarrubias.

According to airline industry projections, in the next 25 years, there will be a worldwide shortage of 804,000 pilots, 914,000 flight attendants, and 769,000 aircraft mechanics and technicians. At the present rate, airlines will need to hire an average of 14,500 new pilots each year until 2030 to get ahead of the shortage.

San Bernardino International Airport CEO Mike Burrows said the event was a chance for people to see the opportunities available in the community.

Students received all aspects of aviation, particularly from the flight standpoint,” Burrows said. “We have flight simulators, and a number of our community college organizations at the event do everything from airplane and power plant mechanics training to pilot training, aviation management, and UAS drones. We do all of that here at San Bernardino International Airport.”

Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson was a key partner in bringing the symposium to San Bernardino International Airport, formerly the Norton Airforce Base.

“I feel proud to be the first airport terminal to host a Shades of Blue aviation symposium. I like being the first,” Mayor Robertson beamed.  “Kids learn best when it’s hands-on and there was plenty of hands-on learning here. These kids and their parents are going to remember this.”

Parent Vickie Davis concurred with Mayor Robertson.

“I feel like the event took into account all the different learning styles of people. There was something to expose everyone to aeronautics as a career,” Davis said. “The flight simulators, the fly-overs, the ability to be able to touch, to listen and talk to people in the field. I think it was an awesome day.”

Vendors and partners at the symposium included San Bernardino Valley College Aeronautics, Mt. San Antonio College, STEM Pilot, Athletes for Life, Deborah Roberts Foundation, Marcus Heart Foundation, Community Build, Inc., Expanded Learning, Texas Instruments, Porpoise Robotics, Southern California Association of Governments, and California Baptist University.   

The next Shades of Blue Airline Symposium will be in Ontario in the fall followed by Los Angeles.  For more information on Shades of Blue, visit