Students see aviation world options

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On Sept. 27 the Socorro Municipal Airport hosted the first ever Career Day in Aviation, which is intended to familiarize and entice students with varied aspects of career opportunities in aviation and related occupations.
Approximately 65 students from the Socorro, Magdalena and Alamo schools attended. Pilots from Socorro and those who flew in for the occasion conducted on-the-spot tutorial sessions with groups of students in a hands-on manner explaining, for example, the functions of control surfaces and their related controls and instruments inside the various aircraft.

A hot air balloon was unable to fully inflate because of strong winds. However, the owner of a light fixed wing aircraft was able to give some lucky students their first ride in an airplane. Retired airline pilot David Phillips, who flew in from Henderson, Nev., said he enjoyed “taking up” first-timers. Various other aircraft, including a gyrocopter, were also on display.

Laura Haines, a former airline/cargo 747 pilot and co-chairperson of the M-Mountain Fly-In, was on hand to help other Career Day organizers.

“This is our first ever Career Day,” Haines said. “So it’s a bit of a learning curve. We decided that because the military would not be part of our M-Mountain Fly-In this year (held Sept. 28) because of the government sequesters … and they do support our Civil Air Patrol activities, that we needed to reach out and support our kids regarding careers in aviation.

“It’s not all about being a pilot or a flight attendant. There are careers for mechanics and other avenues to pursue in a career in aviation.”

Jerry Griego, a local electrical contractor, provided students a unique opportunity by showing them how he builds his own “kit” aircraft, a 701 Zenith short takeoff and landing (STOL) airplane designated a light sports aircraft.
Griego said his interest in aviation was sparked when he went for his very first airplane ride at the age of 11. To date he has put in 420 labor hours manufacturing and assembling his “bird” and expects to complete the work and begin testing the aircraft by the end of this year. He has received 17 hours of instruction in the 701 Zenith aircraft in Carson City, Nev. Griego said he was happy to be part of the Career Day activities.

“What I wanted to convey to the student was that there is lot of opportunities in the aviation industry,” Griego said. “Some include careers in electronics, software design, mechanics, piloting. It (Career Day) truly was a success. Students got involved asking questions, good questions. That shows interest.”

Ronald Keller, an employee of the New Mexico Transportation Department, is the aviation safety and education administrator. He was present for the event, his first time in Socorro.

“Part of my duties as aviation safety and education administrator is to travel to different schools around the state to promote aviation in general and to encourage students at all levels to consider aviation as a career,” Keller said.

Socorro High School assistant principal Janice Jaramillo attended with SHS students, along with students and teachers from Sarracino Middle School and the Magdalena and Alamo schools.

Polo C’ de Baca/For El Defensor Chieftain -- Career Day students gather to listen to Jerry Griego of Socorro tell about career opportunities in aviation. Griego uses his mostly completed kit plane, a Zenith 701, to demonstrate the assembly process and explain the functions of different parts of his aircraft and how they contribute to the control of the airplane.