NBAA Partners with Aviation Pioneer to Build Training Center

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is teaming up with a Florida-based aviation education company and other industry players to launch a new training program that aims to develop a future workforce business aviation work, it announced Tuesday afternoon at its business aviation convention and expo in Orlando Florida.

The training center, which is led by former Earthrounder pilot Barrington Irving, will be located at the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport (OPF) and will be used to train local, national and international students in the careers of the professional and technical aviation.

In 2007, Jamaican-born Irving became the first and only African-American pilot to circumnavigate the globe solo when he embarked on a 97-day flight in a Columbia 400 aircraft. At the time, he was also the youngest to do so, a feat that earned recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The training center will aim to increase the number of young professionals in the business aviation industry, with an initial focus on maintenance-related careers. Collaborators on the initiative include Irving’s Pilot class educational company, which offers a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program to students, and Experienceence Aviation Nonprofit STEM. Other industry partners include the NBAA, Miami-Dade County Vice Chairman Oliver Gilbert, III, Miami-Dade Department of Aviation, Atlantic Aviation and Bombardier.

“Our goal is simple – we want to build the business aviation talent pool,” Irving said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the industry increasingly faces labor pressures. In a recent report, Boeing (NYSE: BA) believed that the global aviation industry must recruit, train and hire more than 610,000 service technicians by 2041.

Expressing his strong support for the initiative, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called the project a one-of-a-kind training facility.

NBAA, a longtime partner with Irving and awarded him the 2019 NBAA American Spirit Award for his contribution to the industry, said in a statement that project partners plan to enroll 100 students in southern Florida by the end of next year.

When Bolen briefly took the stage to introduce Irving to the audience on Tuesday, he called the moment “the best part of the show.”

“Transforming Lives”

“A long time ago, a man named Barrington dreamed of flying around the world, and that dream certainly inspired a segment of the industry known as business aviation,” Bolen said. “What Barrington has done transcends aviation, and what he does transforms lives.”

In 2005, Irving launched Experience Aviation, a non-profit organization based at Opa-locka Executive Airport, to use aviation to develop students’ skills and interest in STEM careers through a series creative challenges. The students, for example, were challenged to build an airplane from scratch, with Irving promising to fly and keep his word if they were successful.

Irving then launched Flying Classroom in 2013 as a platform to invest, inspire and empower young professionals in STEM+ and aviation careers. The organization offers a curriculum through more than 160 virtual and interactive lessons to educate young professionals about careers related to aviation.

In 2019, Flying Classroom partnered with Bombardier, Inc. to launch Bombardier Flight Class Academy to introduce college students, military veterans, and technical school students to business aviation careers in maintenance. Earlier this year, during the NBAA-Regional Forum at Opa-locka, the Academy graduated its first 30 students who received job offers for various maintenance-related positions at Bombardier.

“We need to cultivate talent around business aviation, train for business aviation and hire for business aviation,” Irving said after joining Bolen on stage.

According to the NBAA, Irving’s Flying Classroom and Experience Aviation has led to more than 200 direct student hires in business aviation. It has been able to do this by organizing collaborative community events across the country at FBOs like Atlantic Aviation, supported by various recruiting initiatives.

Building a talent pool in business aviation

The training center will offer innovative training programs and approaches, as well as specialized technical and professional certifications, and will integrate resources provided by the NBAA to enrolled students. Bolen and Irving said more details will be available at the next NBAA Regional Forum in Opa Locka in February 2023.

The project promises to be symbolic. Irving launched his round-the-world flight from the airport, and city officials later renamed a street in his honor.

Miami-Dade city official Gilbert has previously expressed support for Irving’s expanded local presence.

“I am extremely excited about the launch of this phenomenal program; train our future pilots, engineers, technicians and business leaders in the aviation industry,” said Gilbert. “It was an honor to work with a trailblazer like Captain Irving to bring this to life. The aviation industry is growing rapidly, and with Urban Air Mobility technology on the horizon, we need to be innovative and prepare for what lies ahead. This training center will allow young people in our community to take full advantage of all the opportunities the aviation industry has to offer.


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