Paying it back has always been a priority for most regional business aviation groups. Between scholarships, intern and mentor programs, school and student outreach, volunteer medical and disaster relief flights, a variety of fundraising efforts and much more, dozens of aviation organizations are actively involved in community service. In Texas, Colorado and other states, some groups also are involved in programs that support active duty and retired veterans.
“We believe in giving back to our men and women who have served and currently serve our country,” said Houston Regional Aviation Professionals (HRAP) Co-Chair Kristina Jacobs. The group has hosted clay-shoot events that raise funds for organizations that support veterans, including Camp Hope, a Houston-based interim housing facility for veterans suffering from combat-related PTSD. HRAP also has supported the D.A.W.G. (Dogs Assisting Wounded GIs) Foundation, which provides a training service for dogs and pairs the animals with veterans.
“We believe in giving back to our men and women who have served and currently serve our country. ”
KRISTINA JACOBS Co-Chair, Houston Regional Aviation Professionals
Also in Texas, the Greater Waco Aviation Alliance (GWAA) has held a black-tie Freedom Ball for 13 years, with the proceeds benefiting aviation, aerospace and engineering scholarships, with a strong emphasis on military families.
“GWAA established the ball to be a patriotically-themed gala that recognizes active duty military and veterans and honors Gold-Star families. It is the only event of its kind in our area, and it is very well received by the military community,” said Jennifer Branch, program director for GWAA and director of existing industries and workforce development for the Greater Waco Chamber. “Since we started the ball, we have awarded $191,000 to 92 students.” Branch noted that Waco-based Blackhawk Aerospace, an NBAA member, was one of the founding members of the Freedom Ball.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s ball will pivot to a Stars & Stripes music festival in September, but the ball itself will be back in February 2022.
Another long-standing veteran support effort is the annual holiday VFW Airlift organized by the Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA). Staged out of Denver’s Centennial Airport just prior to the winter holidays, the airlift, which has been held since 2011, has delivered more than 62,000 pounds of food and toys to VFW posts statewide.
CABA Executive Director Mike Straka, a military veteran himself, said that nearly 6,000 individuals have been served to date. “CABA members help with sorting, weighing and loading the donations,” he explained. “Some members also volunteer their time and aircraft to deliver the donations.”
NDAA Thriving in the Peace Garden State
The North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) has recently gone from holding one annual event to hosting three events a year, rebranded with a FLY-ND logo, begun a new initiative to hold career expos, and is working to get an A&P school back in the state.
The group produces a first-rate quarterly publication and has hired association experts to help manage the group and undertake any lobbying as needed. And that’s just some of what NDAA has been working on during the pandemic.
“Outreach and membership remain a focus,” said Darren Hall, immediate past chairman of NDAA. “We are also committed to aviation workforce development.” The expos bring primarily high school students to airports and museums across the state, getting them “beyond the fence so they can see aviation first-hand and [be aware of] scholarships and networking opportunities,” said Hall.
With the entire state of North Dakota an unmanned aircraft system test site, helping to integrate UAS programs with school curriculum and getting students excited about drones is also a great way to get young people interested in aviation and aerospace, according to Hall. “There’s so much opportunity for students in North Dakota to get into aviation.”