From Cheetos® to Gyros: one man’s attempt to engage high school students in aviation business

May 2nd, 2014 by Jolie Lucas
Bob Velker is the Business Liaison & Community Outreach Manager at Chino Airport, CA [KCNO].  As such is he is really an ambassador for the airport and the business park within its boundaries.  He has developed a program for high school students to spend a day learning about industry and career opportunities at the airport.  During my recent tour, he kept repeating that Chino Airport was really a light industrial park, with runways. After my visit, I could see why.

The local high schools receive the benefit of a full-day program for their upper division students including lunch at famous Flo’s Restaurant. The kids get the day away from campus, education about the career vocations offered by an airport, plus a super cool two-week internship possibility.

The syllabus for the day at the airport lists a sampling of the career vocations offered at Chino Airport [as well as many mid-to large airports around the country]

    • Commercial pilot/co-pilot
    • Operations
    • Instructions
Where opportunity takes flight

Chino Airport…where opportunity takes flight


  • Airframe
  • Engines
  • Detailer
  • Director of Maintenance
  • Logistics


  • Exterior Paint and Body work
  • Interior Design, Fabric, woodworking, metal working, installation

Air Traffic Control

Computer & Information Technology

Police and Fire Fighting

Ground [Field] Operations

  • Fuel
  • Taxi
  • Support Vehicles
  • Field Markings
  • Taxi/Runway
  • Baggage Handling
  • Food Service
  • Management


  • Marketing
  • Business
  • Management
  • Finance
  • Customer Service
  • Dispatch


  • Museums
  • Restoration
  • Historians

During the morning session the students spend time with AeroTrader which has 50 employees in aircraft restoration, repairs, engine re-building, fabrication and machine shop.  They also tour Threshold an FBO that has 60 employees working in charter operations, aircraft maintenance and aircraft management.  Both of these businesses need a mix of vocational and skilled employees.

After lunch at Flo’s the groups go to SCE, a public utilities company with 40 employees. Then on to Mach One Air Charters [8 employees] , DuBois Aviation [20 employees] and ending with the Planes of Fame Air Museum, a non-profit with 35 employees.  Along the way the kids see the tower and ATC system, learn about Young Eagles, and other businesses on field including avionics repair.

At the end of the day, if a student identifies a strong interest in working for one of the employers highlighted in a session they are given the opportunity to participate in a two-week internship.  All of the businesses at Chino, or any airport for that matter, need workers trained through vocational programs or skilled technical programs. Most high schools now offer various tracks to their students to meet those needs.

I think that Bob Velker has struck gold with this idea.  Not only does it get people to the airport other than pilots, it helps to highlight that our airports offer tremendous economic value and are an economic engine for our communities.  The students might be able to “see” themselves in an aviation career other than that of a pilot. Opportunities like this day-long event open young minds to the career possibilities in aviation. As a parent of a teenager myself, I welcome an opportunity for a child to be able to get their head out of the phone, video game, or chip bag, and into the possibilities of a career in aviation.

Jolie Lucas

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, private pilot, and Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups, Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. Jolie is the Contributing Editor for AOPA Airport Support Network newsletter. She the director and executive producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney. She created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls to inspire women to become pilots and females to become aircraft owners. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Ron Rapp

    I used to take kids on tours of the Corona Airport (AJO). I’d show them the DC-3, some smaller GA airplanes, take them to a shop where they’d learn about aircraft maintenance and see a sheetmetal riveting demo and some in-progress mx projects, and sometimes some experimental airplanes would fly in and let the kids see what they could build with their own hands.

    Next week I’m doing something similar, but taking the presentation into the school. Not nearly as exciting, but a lot better than nothing!

    • Jolie Lucas

      Thank is wonderful Ron. We can all do our part.

  • Max Trescott

    Sounds like an excellent program. I wonder where the airport found the budget for a Business Liaison & Community Outreach Manager. Or is it a volunteer position? It would be great to replicate this model elsewhere around the country!

  • Trevor

    Wow! Flo’s is still serving.
    Probably ate there at least once a week, in early 1983, during training at Chino for a commercial heli license.

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