For more than 70 years, Falcon Field has spread its wings in east Mesa to remain in flight and serve not only its own community, but the world.
The field opened in 1941, playing a role in serving the United States’ efforts during World War II. It’s long since expanded its services and its contribution to the aerospace industry in the city, such as as with Boeing’s growth over the past three decades, Falcon Field’s foundation remains solid in preparing for the future.
That’s where the younger generationcomes in — a group which gains valuable experience through working on aviation-related projects and taking part in internships that Falcon Field provides.
Students at local institutions such as at Arizona State University, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University are gaining hands-on experience in the aviation industry while completing course requirements; the enhanced effort is all part of a partnership to help to give the small airport new perspectives on its operations and minimum requirement standards.
Who knows? Maybe one of these young aviation enthuisiasts can be the modern-day Orville or Wilbur Wright — brothers who flew the first engine-powered aircraft on the beaches of Kittyhawk, N.C. on Dec. 17, 1903. That was 109 years ago this week.
Since the fall of 2001, five teams of students have participated in four projects at Falcon Field. This includes a team of five ASU students in the fall who worked on updating the airport’s minimum standards and a group of six Embry Riddle students who worked on outreach to airport tenants.
Minimum standards are commonly used in the aviation industry to guide commercial aviation businesses operating at airports. They ensure that businesses are treated fairly and equitably while helping maintain high-quality, adequate services for airport users. They also protect the public from unlicensed and unauthorized products and services while promoting orderly development of airport land and promoting airport safety.
“Falcon Field is passionate about encouraging and helping young people enter and work in the aviation field,” said Dee Anne Thomas, a spokeswoman for Falcon Field. “Working with these students is a way to do that, and we get new ideas and a new perspective from a younger generation to help us with our operations. It can give them something to put on their resume’ and maybe help them get their first job.”
A team of three ASU students worked on a promoting aviation to youth project in the fall of 2001, and five Embry Riddle students worked on a strategic management plan in the spring, according to information from Falcon Field.
A student team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aviation Business Administration program also is fulfilling requirements to work on an actual private or public business situation. The group has been working to develop strategies for education and outreach to airport tenants to support the Airport’s communication goals.
The programs are known as capstone requirements at colleges and universities in which departments or instructors require students to complete a “hands-on” or internship with a company or organization after their junior or senior year in college.
In the last five years, Falcon Field has been approached more often by students who are interested in getting into the aviation industry, Thomas said.
Andrew Porter, who grew up in Mesa and lives in Gilbert was one of them.
An aspiring air traffic controller, Porter, 26, graduated from ASU’s Air Traffic Management program in May. In the fall. He was among the three students who looked at ways that Falcon Field could promote the aviation industry to youth such as through open houses, handing out brochures and ramping up social media efforts.
“I thought it was a great experience,” Porter said. “Growing up in Mesa, I always knew the airport was there, but I didn’t know how much went on out there. It’s not just being a pilot. There’s air traffic controllers and engine mechanics, too.”
Porter also was quick to point out Falcon Field’s Aviation Explorers program and the Young Eagles — a volunteer group of young pilots who provide free flights to youth interested in entering the aviation industry and the aviation program at the East Valley Institute of Technology.
“It’s always interesting to have fresh eyes examining issues,” said Corinne Nystrom, airport director of Falcon Field. “We enjoy hearing the students’ ideas because their perspectives and experiences produce ideas we hadn’t considered.”
Falcon Field also hosts the Mesa Public Schools’ Aviation Camp for middle school students every summer and offers tours to school and scout groups.
“We want to spark their interest in aviation and help students see the pathway for achieving their dreams through a career in aviation,” Nystrom said.
You never know — one of the students who passes through Falcon Field, and maybe a student from the East Valley at that, just may be the next innovator in the aviation industry.
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