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For the 27th year, kids from the Shawnee Aviation Career Education Academy in Louisville spent a week learning what it takes to fly.

The Shawnee ACE Academy is sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and UPS Airlines and gives children a chance to take a deeper, up-close look at aviation as a career.

About 60 middle and high school students participated in the camp this year; it ended Friday at Bowman Field where campers got to fly. For some, this meant flying for the first time.

Fourteen-year-old Aaron Clay said he developed an interest in becoming a pilot at a young age when his grandmother would take him to watch the UPS planes take off. Aaron said the camp opened his eyes to the many opportunities available in the aviation industry.

“I always thought that you know, of only being a pilot in aviation, but you can be a mechanic, you can be so many different things in aviation,” Aaron said. “It’s not necessarily being only a pilot.”

Evan Heichelbech | wfpl.org

Shawnee ACE Academy students at Bowman Field on Friday, June 21, 2019.

Raymond Robinson has served for 14 years as director at the Shawnee ACE Academy, one of 26 academies through OBAP across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

“This is something that we feel like our young people certainly need to see at a very young age, so we could start a pathway for them,” Robinson said. “Ideally, we would like all of them to become pilots, but the reality is they probably won’t. So they all have unique skill sets, even at this young age that are transferable to a career in the aerospace industry.”

The camp took trips to UPS to try out the flight simulators and see the FAA control towers and to Morehead State’s Astronomy Department.

On Friday, UPS pilots volunteered their time to take the campers on short flights at Bowman Field; the company hopes to interest kids at an early age to fill future industry needs.

Volunteer charter pilot and flight instructor Peter Miller said the camp is one of his favorite experiences throughout his whole career in the aviation industry.

“These kids, frankly, they will have never been in airplane or seen an airplane and now they’re in an airplane,” Miller said. “People talk about the shortage of pilots, and you know, just not enough people are interested or have the aptitude or the ability to go do it. This paves the way. This gets people involved and gets people going.”

Twelve-year-old Tyreaun Watkins said his mother initially signed him up for the ACE Academy “without notice” but says he has really enjoyed learning about flying as a way of transportation.

“It interests me because it’s a better way of transportation in so many ways,” Tyreaun said. “This is awesome being in the air going, like, really fast.”