The other day, I tagged along with my husband to the 36th Annual Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show at the Washington State Fair Center in Puyallup. He was going to hold down a booth. I had a book with me in case it became too boring. I was expecting a presentation of aviation products and information of the driest kind, after all. Boy, was I wrong!
With 165 show catalogue entries, the organizer, the Washington Aviation Association, hadn’t just worked out an impressive guide through the show. The hall itself was a colorful display of the most various topics combining products and services around airplanes and airports, seminars, presentations, and even fun activities for visitors young and old. I hadn’t expected to see an entire area dedicated to a creative kids’ program. I had not expected to see visitors trying out flight simulators. I hadn’t even thought of how many fields are networking with the field of aviation.
I thought that if I had a kid at middle school or high school age, I’d simply have to visit this trade fair with them to show them the opportunities of one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest and most versatile industries. (And did I say that admittance is free to anybody 17 years old and younger?!) There are educational programs that come in at junior and senior level already, broaching a path towards college education. The Aeronautical Science Pathway is a partnership of the Puget Sound Skills Center, Green River College, and the Museum of Flight, at whose location classes take place. There are diverse colleges offering different paths to jobs in the field of aviation. Quite a few associations dedicate themselves to helping ambitious students with scholarships. Airlines, both regional and national, had set up booths to offer information on job openings. One recruiter I talked to told me that aviation to her had meant the one way out of her very small rural town and across the fence (yep, she took me up on my column title!) to get a whiff of the world.
I was talking to a bank who has made it their business to provide loans for people who want to buy their own plane. There were insurances, representatives from unions as well as from different branches of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), businesses that provide hydraulic hangar doors, flooring, tug cars, gauges, LED lights, avionics, clothing, and manuals for all kinds of fields. I talked to an officer from the Washington State Patrol – it had never occurred to me they had an aviation branch as well. Another job field that might attract young people who are considering what they might want to become one day. I talked to a business whose specialty is aircraft maintenance and repair – they are into all kinds of plane types and work them at their brick and mortar location, but they also venture out to broken down planes and repair them on site. Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?! I probably spent at least 20 minutes at an avionics stand and listened to the stunning history that lies behind the development of an intriguing instrument that helps pilots detect weather fronts and geographical impediments up to 300 miles ahead of their way, so they can plan their flight path accordingly. And I had an interesting conversation with someone from the Mission Aviation Fellowship – it had never occurred to me that there is even a religious path into the field of aviation, combining spiritual with medical aid and supplies in disaster zones. I talked to a movie maker who focuses on female pilots and their adventures. I had to slap my fingers at the incredible display of both flight fiction and non-fiction from an island bookstore. I gathered information about recreational flights with seaplanes and other small aircraft around the most beautiful areas in the Pacific Northwest. And I never had a chance to talk to flying legend Major Brian Shul who presented his books because he was beleaguered by fans. Nor with Bob Dempster, one of those rare aviators who build a plane and then plan an incredible mission, in his case a world cruise in his reproduction of a 1924 Douglas Cruiser called Seattle II.
Instead, I had chats with most charming people from all kinds of airports in the Puget Sound area who were telling me about their services such as hangar rentals and business park buildings and suites to let to all kinds of businesses. About upcoming events and museum buildings and cooperations at their location. I chatted to a pilot club that was reaching out for new members. I admired the beauty of some exhibited aircraft. And I was entirely mind blown by the airplane that a group of teenagers had built and put up for sale on the show – to see the young students of TeenFlight Puyallup, male and female, happily engaged around their masterpiece and a flight simulator was a joy to the heart.
Long story short: Though I’m not very tech-savvy, I wasn’t bored a single minute during the entire afternoon I spent at this fantastic venue that offers information, business, and networking for pilots, mechanics, plane owners, and people who want to get a foot into the flying industry. My book stayed in my bag, and I took in the show to its very last minute, highly delighted with the passion I encountered and the kindly shared information from each and every person I met.
The next Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show will be held on February 22 and 23, 2020, with the Career Forum (aviation jobs, education, training & networking) on Friday, February 21. Make sure you explore it!