Thursday, July 18, 2024

Opportunities for youth as NBCFAE lands in Las Vegas

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

From Aug. 1-3, Las Vegas will play host to the 2012 training conference for the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE).

Actress portraying Bessie Coleman at last year's NBCFAE's conference in Baltimore with a NBCFAE representative.

This year, the event comes with a twist aimed at exposing young African-Americans to the career opportunities that await them in the air. On July 30, the organization will also host the all-day Ace Academy Youth Camp.

Said NBCFAE Western Pacific Regional President James Swanson Jr.: “We are excited to have one of the original Tuskegee airmen speak to the youth, along with (others) giving them demonstrations in aviation.”

NBCFAE’s central mission is to create equal opportunities in the field for African-Americans, women and other minorities.

“There are disparities in the aviation industry (that affect) African-Americans, but it is getting better,” said Swanson. “I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of exposure. That is why I go to various high schools to speak to students about what I do as an air traffic controller. I was shocked by an experience when I was speaking to a group of high school students. One student shouted out to me, ‘I don’t know why you are wasting our time. The only reason you got a job like that is because you sound like you are white.’ I initially didn’t know how to respond, but then I said, ‘Just because I speak with clarity and maturity, that is not a ‘white’ thing. It is about representing oneself in the best possible way, backed up with an education.’”

Founded in 1977, the NBCFAE was known originally as the Black Controllers Coalition. A front-line manager at Napa County Airport in Napa County, Calif., Swanson said he finds his job as an air traffic controller very rewarding.

“You work with a bunch of Type-A personalities,” he said with a laugh. “People who all want to take charge. It is not a boring job by any means. You actually get to see why you have put your hard work and training in, when you take control of busy plane traffic, and all of your planes land successfully and everyone is home safely.”

It is estimated that air traffic controllers earn a starting salary of $50,000, pay that can reach as high as $150,000.  “If aviation was basketball, we would be the NBA,” said Swanson. “Air traffic controllers are the superstars of the industry, and in some cases we get paid more than pilots.”

For those interested in exploring a career as an air traffic controller, there is an important age restriction: You must be hired before your 31st birthday.

“It is important that we encourage our African-American youth to consider careers in aviation,” said Swanson. “The Ace Academy Camp will be interactive, and we want everyone to enjoy themselves. There will be different projects and activities with remote-control helicopters. We will also talk to the youth about the principles of flight, and all kinds of things related to aviation. Those interested in having their youth participate in the camp can email me directly at James.Swanson@NBCFAE.  We are trying to have 50 youth participate in our day-long camp. We look forward to the opportunity to meet with many African-Americans in the Las Vegas area, and showing them that the sky is the limit in the field of aviation.”

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