Fresno aviation academy receives grant to train underrepresented

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A local non-profit is hoping to forever change the futures of teens from the Valley -- and perhaps all of aviation.

"What's at stake is really the survival of the aviation industry, quite frankly," says New Vision Aviation President and CEO Joseph Oldham.

Right now, there is a critical shortage of trained professional pilots.

Historically, the captain's chair has been filled by white men and many are approaching retirement with few looking to replace them.

Oldham is hoping to solve both of those problems by inspiring youngsters from underrepresented communities to take to the skies.

"That's the plan -- to get these young people engaged in aviation," he said. "Understand that there's an opportunity for them and then provide the pathways."

Based at the Chandler Airport in southwest Fresno, the New Generation Aviation Academy provides aviation training to students of color or from low-income families.

On Monday, the academy received $180,000 from the "Wood Next Fund" that will help with much-needed resources.

"It gives us enough resources that we can actually buy a motor-glider because we've determined working with Fresno Unified that the best certification that we can get for these young people, at the lowest cost entry level, would be a glider certification," Oldham said.

Sammy Taylor III is one of the young aspiring pilots at the academy.

Kids as young as eight can enroll and they start learning to fly with simulators.

Once they are 13, they can take to the skies learning to fly a glider.

At 16, they begin flying more complex planes with the hope of earning their pilot's license by the time they graduate high school.

"It's pretty exciting," Taylor III said. "t's kind of nerve-wracking when you're first going on it but once you get used to it, it's a walk in the park."

Sammy's 12, so he's still mostly using the simulator but he's had the chance to go up in the air with instructors and has logged his first half-hour of flight instruction.

He says it's an awesome opportunity that's preparing him for a lifetime of opportunities.

"Because it offers them a chance, a great career path to learn about aviation and you could possibly make up to $250,000," he said.

Sammy's father, Sammy Taylor, Jr. says he didn't have this opportunity growing up but is so proud of his son as he earns his wings.

"This was something that he really enjoyed doing, so I had to as a parent steer my energy and efforts towards something that he enjoys doing and that's why we are here today," he said.
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