Chief Bradford 2/135 AVN BN, who serves for the Colorado National Guard., sits on a UH-60 Black Hawk at Centennial Airport's first Aviation Career Day on June 14. "This is a very crew-oriented airline," Bradford said. "You have to work as a team."
The State of Colorado's Multi-Mission Aircraft is one of two Pilatus PC-12 airplanes in the country. The plane, with state-of-the-art infrared and color sensors, was available for touring at Centennial Airport's first Aviation Career Day on June 14.
Colorado Air National Guard Lt. Col. Mitchell Neff lands an F-16 at Aviation Career Day at Centennial Airport on June 14. His aviation interest started in 1991 after watching Top Gun, he said.
Mike Straka has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and calls himself a “trained scientist.” But his career path changed when he became chair of the Colorado Aviation Business Association about five years ago.
“When you're flying,” said Straka, who's had his pilot's license for 10 years, “you're in control of the plane. You can go wherever you want.”
Straka, of Denver, coordinated the first Aviation Career Day at Centennial Airport on June 14 to spark public interest in the flight industry.
The Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA) had its first iteration in 1994 as the Centennial Airport Business Association, created to advocate for aviation businesses in and around the airport. Over time, the group fizzled into a quarterly pilot's lunch.
In 2007, a group of businessmen and women formed CABA, a nonprofit organization with over 400 members as of August 2015, according mycaba.org.
CABA advocates for the safety and operational effectiveness of Colorado airports, a media release says. It educates the public on aviation activities in the state and preserves and protects airport-related businesses.
“Our mission is to promote the value of general aviation business around the state,” Straka said. “We decided to do a career day to expose young people to some careers in aviation.”
The timing is ideal since Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed June as Colorado's General Aviation Appreciation Month in 2011.
For the event, CABA collaborated with Signature Flight Support, a branch of Centennial Airport equipped with a hangar and flight ramp. The setup resembled a career fair with booths and speakers from several aviation sectors, including the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum's Teacher Flight Program, Colorado Heli-Ops, Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control, and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Dave Ulane, the director of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics, oversees 14 airports in the state. His division reinvests state fuel taxes into aviation education through internship programs.
“We are helping future aviators understand how cool a career in aviation is,” Ulane said at Aviation Career Day.
Ulane is colorblind and nearsighted so he couldn't fly planes but “would have loved to,” he said.
There's a shortage of pilots in small communities, Ulane said, because certification requires more training, hours and money.
Commercial pilots who fly in and out of public-use airports, such as Centennial Airport or Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County, must be at least 18 years old, hold a private pilot certificate and have at least 250 hours of flight time.
In 2014, there were 104,322 commercial pilots in the U.S. and in 2015, the number declined to 101,164, the Federal Aviation Administration reports.
But some say it's a reliable industry to pursue.
“The future is bright,” said Chris Archuleta, crew chief of Colorado's wildland fire management aviation program. “And jobs are available.”
Archuleta got his Airframe and Powerplant License from Redstone College, based in Broomfield. He then worked for Bode Aviation, an aircraft maintenance program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He now works for the state of Colorado, leading fire safety and search and rescue missions. He uses a plane with infrared lighting capabilities that detects hot spots before a fire breaks out.
“It's a military-suited aircraft,” Archuleta said.
Some, like Colorado Air National GuardLt. Col.Mitchell Neff, find their passion for aviation at a young age.
“I was first inspired after I saw the movie 'Top Gun' in 1991,” Neff said.
He joined the Colorado Air National Guard out of college in 1993. He's now stationed in Buckley.
Neff flies the F-16 “Fighting Falcon,” a fighter aircraft that travels at speeds faster than sound.
“It's like a race car,” he said. “I don't hear a thing when I'm out there.”
Story and photo gallery: http://littletonindependent.net