CHS students to learn about aviation careers (Pawtucket Times)

BY Paul Ouellette

SMITHFIELD — Kids growing up often want to become police officers, firefighters, doctors, professional athletes or celebrities. The odds of them achieving those goals are far-reaching at best and nearly impossible in others. They would need a lot of talent and a little bit of luck to make something happen.

That door of opportunity recently opened up for one such group.

A group of several CumberlandHigh School students is taking a field trip to North Central State Airport on Wednesday, May 30, to learn about the aviation industry. This trip includes demonstrations, hands-on activities and other discussions to get the group to consider the field upon graduation.

Local businessman David Bellenoit, who cited his membership with the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce for spearheading this event, said the profession might not be the first thing students think about when they choose a job. The purpose of this excursion would be getting them to open their minds to this idea.

“Aviation is an in-demand, (one of the nation’s largest employing industries), lucrative (not just for pilots, but for engineers, government agency workers and airport personnel) career field that yields fantastic rewards and a great quality of life,” said Bellenoit.

“An historic number of today’s top pilots and engineers are soon coming to retirement age. The FAA and NASA have recognized this and are actively getting the message out to kids interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields that the path to advancement in this field is getting faster each year.”

At the airport event, Doug Auclair of Air-Ventures RI will take the group on a tour of the facility, explain some of the career options that are open to them and answer any questions. The students will also have a chance to see one of the airplanes and have a chance to see the inner workings of an airplane, he noted.

Auclair said having the students there, even for a few hours, can impact their career.

“Our hope is getting Rhode Island kids introduced to the scope and variety of aviation careers out there and how Rhode Island’s General Aviation (GA) community with its nine GA airports can help Rhode Island kids achieve their dreams,” Auclair said.

“Our day for the kids visiting the North Central Airport is just one small step in that direction. We’re opening up the hangars so the kids can talk directly with people who are in the business of aviation, touch planes, and hopefully ignite that spark.”

The efforts of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce helped provide direction to getting this idea going. Chamber Senior Vice President Paul Ouellette said the area’s economy could be helped with the addition of new jobs and local people filling them. With the chamber’s influence and contacts in the area, he said, the prospect of showing students what is out there can open their eyes to what they can do.

“We are trying to get young people ready to become future members of the workforce, and doing something like this can be a way to achieving that,” said Ouellette. “The chamber applauds local companies that reach out to students to demonstrate that there is a world of jobs out there that they might not otherwise know about.”

With the aviation industry in flux, Bellenoit thinks the time is right for some new blood to enter the industry.

“This is an opportunity to any Rhode Island kid who has ever dreamed of either flying planes around the world, work on jet engines, or even design tomorrow’s spacecraft or modes of air travel,” he said. “Achieving that dream is not beyond their reach. The FAA, NASA and the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and others offer scholarships and grants that can help make their dream a reality.”

Meg Geoghegan