Elizabethtown summer camp aims to grow interest in aviation industry

Elizabethtown summer camp aims to grow interest in aviation industry
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 9:57 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2023 at 10:43 AM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (WECT) - A new summer camp in Elizabethtown is aiming to address the struggles that the aviation industry may be facing due to short staffing numbers.

Experts say there could be a shortage of more than 10,000 pilots by the end of 2023.

At the summer aviation camp, 5th to 8th graders get to experience sitting in helicopter cockpits and airplanes while receiving a glimpse into a future career in aviation.

“To have the opportunity to be able to expose these kids to the aviation industry and tell them a little bit about what jobs might be there for them when they graduate high school, or maybe even college. Some of them won’t have been in an airplane, but we’re giving them the opportunity to see inside the cockpit and to see what the pilots go through,” Mayor Sylvia Campbell of Elizabethtown said.

Over 200 kids have applied to the summer aviation camp at the Curtis Brown Field Airport, and some of them say this had been the best start to summer.

“It’s a very unique experience because just because there’s an airport here doesn’t mean you can like go inside all the airplanes and stuff. Unless you’re like the one flying them. But with the camp, we have gotten to do that,” Ruby Stephens, an aviation camper, said.

The campers learn about the air traffic control system, aircraft maintenance and drone navigation free of charge because the camp is paid through funding from the North Carolina Department of Aviation.

Thursday’s class was based on learning the ins and outs of drones. It was a lesson that Stephens likely won’t forget anytime soon.

“I think I might want to do something with drones, just because they’re a lot of fun. And they’re not hard as flying an airplane. Because you don’t have to control the entire thing. But you do it from the ground. I think might look into doing something in drones, and fly them,” Stephens says.

With the U.S. facing a potential pilot shortage, the camp’s organizers hope they can help develop the next generation of pilots and mechanics.

“We thought we’d be really lucky to get 60. So we’re probably gonna end up having another session because just the interest in and all of a sudden, the, by the first week, 141 applicants came in so and that’s why I understand how powerful Facebook was,” Rusty Worley with Elizabethtown Planning & Zoning said.