DULUTH, Minn. --
Most pilots can attest that they desired to fly at a young age. Seeing any aircraft in the sky just accelerated the desire to travel and soar above the clouds. A true treat for any aspiring aviator is seeing aircraft up close and personal.
The Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) is dedicated to inspiring and providing pathways for underrepresented youth in the aviation and STEM community. Recently, in a co-partnership with the Atlanta, Georgia based Delta hub, around 150 aspiring aviation youth found themselves more than a thousand miles to their north, taxiing in to Duluth, Minnesota.
The destination may have been unusual and unique for many in the group who reside in the Atlanta-area, but the interest in aviation was not. Members of the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota National Guard, F-35 Demonstration Team and Air Force Recruiting Service Detachment One received Dream Flight students on Friday afternoon and were all ready to share information on their roles in aviation and STEM career fields.
“This opportunity is important for us,” said Maj. Corey Robinson, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Minnesota National Guard. “These students get to see there are a number of pathways to obtain a rewarding career in aviation," added Robinson.
The Duluth-based Air National Guard fighter wing transformed their maintenance hangar into an interactive educational round robin experience for the young and eager group comprised mostly of 13–18 year old kids. Attendees had the opportunity to meet the U.S. Air Force F-35 Demonstration Team, tour a 148th Fighter Wing F-16, look close at an F-16 jet engine, speak to Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel and see their unique equipment as well as interact with a variety of aircraft maintenance personnel and F-16 pilots. “This was a unique opportunity for us and them – it was great to be able to tell the kids about the unit and what we do,” said 148th Explosive Ordnance Disposal supervisor, Master Sgt. Mark Hilleren.
Delta Dream Flight attendees received a briefing from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during lunch. Afterward, attendees were bussed to the site of the Duluth Airshow where they were treated to a viewing of military aircraft to include the U.S. Air Force F-35 Demo Team and the Air Force Thunderbirds practice their aerial maneuvers a day prior to the Duluth Airshow; Minnesota’s largest air show.