Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive May 2009 Show 0920 SkillsUSA Aviation

SkillsUSA Aviation

With Oklahoma's aerospace industry on the rise, many young people across the state are also rising to the challenge of preparing for future careers this industry may hold.

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Oklahoma SkillsUSA

Show Dates

Show 0920: SkillsUSA Aviation

Air date: May 17, 2009



1932 was the year that Oklahomans Thomas Cox Allen and J. Herman Banning became the first black pilots to fly across the continent.  The 30s was a heady time for aviation in Oklahoma, with all of the aviation greats flying into the state.  Here, Amelia Earhart was seen demonstrating her auto gyro at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.  World War II boosted aviation like never before.  Douglas plants at Tulsa and Oklahoma City began mass production of war planes.  Military airfields popped up all over the state including Tinker, Altus, Ardmore, Clinton, Enid, Frederick, Woodward, Ponca City, Will Rogers Field, Mustang, Norman, Rob:  Well with Oklahoma’s aerospace industry on the rise, many young people across our state are also rising to the challenge of preparing for future careers.  Between natural growth in the aerospace industry and the retirements of the baby boomer generation, it’s estimated that Oklahoma will have nearly 12,000 aerospace jobs to fill before 2014, which is why Oklahoma’s CareerTech system has joined forces with a unique skills training organization to give our young people the tools they need to take off on a high-flying career.

Russ:  Their hands are steady.  Their eyes, keen.  And the skills they learn, invaluable.

William Bassett:  You have to have a flare on them, and that’s what causes the sealing action.

Russ:  Tulsa Tech student William Bassett is busy honing his pipe flanging skills, culminating a 4 year program that has brought him one step closer to his aviating dreams, and equipped him for the next generation of aerospace careers in Oklahoma.  It’s called, Skills USA, a nationwide program that’s helping the students of today prepare for the aviation careers of tomorrow.

Frances Venezia:  They are what we call the cream of the crop.

Russ:  Frances Venezia is an airframe instructor in the program, and says the intensive training Skills USA provides is essential for making its students competitive in the aerospace field.

Venezia:  Our program is almost 2000 hours, and that is equivalent to what it takes to get a 4 year bachelor’s degree.  So it’s a lot of intensive training, and they spend 50% of the time in the classroom and 50% out in the lab actually doing hands on maintenance, just like they would do in the field.

Russ:  And for top students like Bassett, a special opportunity is afforded to them each year.  The chance to join other students from around the state in a competition that will test them on the skills they’ve gained and the knowledge they’ve acquired.

Bassett:  There’s topics such as weight and balance, federal aviation regulations, aircraft component identification, turbine engine identification, just multiple different things that a mechanic would run into in the industry of aviation.

Venezia:  They have very good test scores.  Their attendance, they keep that in check.  And they have, first and foremost, a good attitude.  They care about their learning, and that’s the type of student that we want to produce for the workforce and the type of student we like to come here and represent our schools.

Russ:  And for students like Bassett, being part of Skills USA is just the right opportunity to increase his skill set and bring him one step closer to achieving his dream of a life in aviation.

Bassett:  I love airplanes, and after I get finished here I want to continue on and get my pilot’s license.  My overall goal for my life is to become a missionary pilot, I don’t know with what organization but that’s the way I feel that God has called me.

Venezia:  I really believe that it is an awesome opportunity.  It’s a great field.  It’s very rewarding seeing something that you either built, or fixed, maintained, and seeing that airplane takeoff and fly into the air is so rewarding.  There’s many jobs you do not get to have that payback on what you put into your job.

Russ:  And there aren’t many industries, like aerospace, that will have a bigger impact on Oklahoma’s economy., Durant, Muskogee, Tulsa, Miami, Gage and Perry.  Future Tuskegee airmen left for training in Alabama, and WASPS took basic training in Stillwater.  After World War II, facilities, like, Will Rogers Field was converted to the future FAA Center.  The Douglas plant at Tinker became part of the new air force base.  Many of the military airstrips became civilian airports around the state.