The late James C. Ray was a World War II veteran and a member of the AOPA President’s Council who “believed that life skills are learned through aviation.”
Donations through the 2021 You Can Fly Challenge will introduce more students to aviation opportunities, provide pilots more time in the air through flying clubs, enhance flight training success, and enable rusty pilots to safely return to the cockpit.
Last year’s You Can Fly Challenge, including the Ray Foundation match, raised more than $5.3 million from 4,200 generous donors to the AOPA Foundation. The donations play an important role in supporting the foundation’s You Can Fly program as well as the AOPA Air Safety Institute.
“Donations during the You Can Fly Challenge go directly to building a stronger pilot community,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA Foundation executive director. “We are gratified to see tangible results from this generosity, bringing new pilots to the skies, keeping them there safely, engendering a sense of community, and providing strategies on how to fly more affordably. And we are, again, deeply grateful to the Ray Foundation, which shares our vision to provide more opportunities to experience the passion for aviation.”
The AOPA Foundation’s You Can Fly program comprises four important pillars.
High School Aviation STEM Curriculum
The You Can Fly High School initiative, covering grades nine through 12, helps students discover careers in aviation and aerospace by preparing them for advanced studies through aviation-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lessons. Because of generous donations to the AOPA Foundation, the curriculum is offered free of charge to schools nationwide, including rural and inner-city schools that lack funding.
The initiative has reached more than 8,500 students in 420 schools nationwide, supporting AOPA’s mission to introduce aviation to underserved markets: Nearly 25 percent of the students are female, and more than one-third come from a minority background. In addition, the AOPA Foundation awarded $1 million in flight training scholarships this year to 100 high school students and teachers.
The benefits of the You Can Fly High School STEM program were aptly captured by Elexis Martin, a student at Steubenville High School in Ohio:
“The AOPA curriculum has driven me to be a private pilot, and if I wasn’t introduced by AOPA, I wouldn’t know how to study for the knowledge test, practice, and know about weather. If this wasn’t available, I wouldn’t be able to be flying now. Freedom—that’s how I feel when I’m up in the sky.”
Echoing those thoughts was Dr. Kevin Conant, a teacher at Sanborn High School in New Hampshire and a recipient of a You Can Fly teacher’s scholarship:
“With the AOPA education curriculum, I see how important it is for the students to write down some notes, watch a video to help with the visual learning, and then have a hands-on activity to put it all together. It’s a much better way to learn. This curriculum is a complete package; I can’t emphasize that enough.”
You Can Fly directly works with flight schools and instructors across the country to improve the educational experience and increase the number of students that complete their training and pursue their dreams. In doing so, the Flight Training team uses a combination of technology, training, support, and recognition.
One exciting new element that team has recently introduced is the AOPA Flight Training Advantage app, a web- and iPad-based training program designed to help make the process of flight training more effective for the student, the CFI, and the flight school. The app simplifies record keeping, allowing the CFI to score performance in the air and automatically assign homework, while giving students instant access to their complete training records.
Under the umbrella of bringing more aviators to the skies, more than $100,000 in additional flight training scholarships were awarded to 24 recipients in 2021. These recipients included aspiring pilots, pilots in training, and pilots pursuing advanced ratings. Since 2012, the AOPA Foundation has awarded nearly $4 million in scholarships.
You Can Fly’s Flying Clubs initiative helps pilots save money, fly more, and connect with fellow aviation enthusiasts. To date, You Can Fly has helped more than 180 flying clubs across the country, comprising thousands of pilots. The You Can Fly team supports these clubs, and new ones, through workshops, educational support, and ongoing counsel.
Especially within the past challenging year, the Rusty Pilots team within You Can Fly has helped thousands of aviators safely return to the skies after some time off. Through its seminars (virtual and in-person) and online courses, the Rusty Pilots program has served nearly 40,000 pilots.
The 2021 You Can Fly Challenge is an opportunity to double the impact of your support on these important programs. Tax-deductible donations should be made by December 31 to count toward the match. For more information, please contact the AOPA Foundation at 800-872-2672 or send an email.