Aviation is so much a part of the US economy that we may sometimes forget what a very central role it plays in so many aspects of national and international commerce. It’s also easy to forget the challenges that aviation still faces in so many parts of the developing world. I am always happy to see countries in developing parts of the world embrace the promise of aviation for promoting and expanding their country’s economy and improving conditions for its citizens. Of course, while we may sometimes take it for granted in our own country, aviation maintenance is a huge factor in improving a country’s expansion of safe and reliable air transportation. So, I consider it an honor to be asked to participate in safety conferences in the developing world, especially when there is an opportunity to speak with aviation maintenance professionals, and most especially, when there is an opportunity to speak with maintenance students.
And that’s why I agreed to be a keynote speaker at an aviation safety conference this past month in Guyana hosted by the country’s civil aviation authority, the equivalent of our FAA. The theme of the event was “Advancing Aviation through Safety, Technology and Synergies.” As a small, developing nation, Guyana clearly sees the promise of aviation in improving the country’s economy and opportunities for its citizens, in particular indigenous people living in the country’s interior. The importance of the endeavor was evident from the roster of speakers and attendees – the Ministers of virtually every government department were there, from the Minister of Tourism to the Ministers of Governance, Infrastructure and Natural Resources; executives from airlines and other aviation-related companies, local and state officials from across the country.
The week was a whirlwind of aviation activities. But among those activities especially near and dear to me was the opportunity to interact with students at Guyana’s Art Williams & Henry Wendt Aeronautical Engineering School. The school was founded in 1993 and is named after two local aviation pioneers -mechanics (and pilots) - who in the early 1930s laid the foundation for aviation in the country. The school trains approximately 180 students to serve as maintenance professionals for domestic and foreign carriers that serve Guyana.
For those of you who know me, I don’t pass up an opportunity to meet with students. And I did not on this trip. The A&P school has rigorous admissions criteria and a challenging curriculum. The students are extremely bright, engaging and committed to aviation maintenance and the highest safety standards. They know that their professionalism and expertise will not only help their aviation industry but benefit their country in so many ways.
I was particularly happy to hear that the students are enthusiastic about the possibility of sending a team to compete in the annual Aerospace Maintenance Competition to be held in Dallas from April 5-6, 2016. Right now they’re looking at raising the funds necessary to do that. I’m hopeful that they’ll succeed.