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Students Explore Career Possibilities at NBAA's Convention

Atlanta, GA, October 21, 2010

"I love to fly, and I've always had a love for business jets," said 16-year-old Rayjhan Bethune, a student at Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE) flight school on Charlie Brown Field near Atlanta. "I wanted to see how I could make money flying, make it a business."

Bethune was one of approximately 225 students attending NBAA's Careers in Business Aviation Day on the final day of the Convention this week. Wearing ACE wings signifying he's soloed already, Bethune's goal is to someday own his own charter operation, and he was eager to visit the booths of charter companies, FBOs and fractional ownership operations at NBAA2010.

Nearly a dozen students came to NBAA2010 from ACE flight school, and about 200 others attended from Atlanta-area middle schools, high schools and colleges around the country as well as youth organizations such as the Civil Air Patrol. Throughout the day, they learned about the many different career opportunities available in business aviation from special presenters and Exhibitors at NBAA2010.

"It's easy, all you have to do is be really focused on what you want to do in life and go after it," said 15-year-old Joy Johnson, who wants to be an aeronautical engineer. Johnson is a student at Westlake High School in southwest Atlanta, a public math and science magnate that just started an aviation program. "I love math and science and my older brother is in flight training, so I love airplanes. I want to design one that's really fast."

After registering for free for the Convention, students gathered for keynote presentations hosted by Jamail Larkins, the first FAA ambassador for aviation and space education and an air show pilot since he was 18 years old. The keynote speakers were two former Navy Blue Angels commanders, George Dom, president of NFS Jet Acquisitions, and Donnie Cochran, aviation program manager for The Coca-Cola Company, as well as former astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.

"When I started back up that ladder, I looked down at the last footprint I would leave on the moon," Cernan told the students. "I knew I wasn't coming back to the moon, but I knew someone else was. You folks are going to take us back to the moon. You're going to stand here someday and tell kids what it was like to look back at the earth from Mars."

Cochran and Dom each told the students about the personal and professional values that had made them successful in the Navy as well as in business. Looking out at a diverse audience of students, Cochran said he was proud the company he flies for today has one of the most diverse flight departments in the business, and that his career in business aviation was as exciting and rewarding as his service in the Blue Angels.

"We fly three Gulfstream aircraft and four Hawker aircraft at [my company]," said Cochran, "and it would be very difficult for my F/A-18 to intercept our G550. That's a fast, powerful business airplane."

When the keynote presentations concluded, college students attended a career seminar and lunch with NBAA staff and industry professionals including flight department managers, FBO workers, pilots, aviation recruiters and consultants. The seminar, co-hosted by NBAA and the University Aviation Association (UAA), included two roundtable sessions and an open forum for students' questions.

Middle and high school students had the rest of the day to visit the hundreds of different companies' booths on the exhibit floor, and dozens of Exhibitors made special presentations to the students.

"You might be a pilot, you might be an air traffic controller, you might manage an airport, you might own your own FBO," ConocoPhillips Vice President of Business Development Bruce Youtsey told a group of students gathered at his booth. "There are so many avenues open to you in the aviation world as long as you have passion."

View the Careers in Business Aviation photo gallery.