Twin Cities camp aims to propel students toward aviation careers as industry struggles with staffing
A prestigious aviation camp in the Twin Cities hopes to inspire future pilots, flight attendants and airport workers in the midst of ongoing staffing struggles in the aviation industry.
Minnesota ACE (Aviation Career Education) Camp offered two sessions this summer, this week and last week, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“We’re at a time where the industry is just growing immensely and there’s a lot of retirements coming up, especially in the flight operations side of things,” said Katrina Mittelstadt, director of this week’s camp, who is also a full-time pilot for United Airlines.
The six-day camps gave more than 60 high schoolers rare access to the aviation industry.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS joined the group for a behind-the-fence tour of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Friday.
The group took a bus out on the airport runways, allowing the students to stand on the airplane de-icing pads close to commercial airplanes taxiing for takeoff.
The students also toured the airport maintenance facility and were allowed to climb on board the large snowplows that clear the runways all winter.
“I don’t think I will ever get these opportunities again,” said Rory Hoeschen, from Wisconsin, who just graduated high school and is considering a career in aviation.
Hoeschen said they were able to sit in air traffic control towers, tour maintenance facilities for major commercial airlines and take “discovery flights” in small aircraft earlier in the week.
“They let me stall the planes and do steep turns and landing. That was a little bit scary but I did it!” Hoeschen said. “I think it made me realize all the reasons I love aviation as much as I do.”
Mittelstadt added, “We give all sorts of access that the public doesn’t get. It’s so important we pass that love of aviation along.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 18,100 openings for pilots every year for the next decade.
A government audit released Friday also found major shortages in air traffic control, with 77% of critical ATC facilities staffed below the FAA’s 85% threshold.
“Yeah, it’s tough in general. It’s tough to find employees,” said Mark Miller, duty manager for airside operations at the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
Miller hopes this camp will open the students’ eyes to a variety of aviation careers.
“We’ve got electricians, we’ve got attorneys, we’ve got architects. There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes people don’t think about but it’s very important to this industry,” Miller said.
Minnesota ACE Camps will run again next summer, with applications opening in February.
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