Aviation Day expands career horizons for Hawaiʻi Scouts

The two teenagers were quiet, concentrating intently as 17-year-old Jeb Vaughn prepared the Boeing 737 for landing.

“Nice, dude,” said Matthew Meinert, as his fellow Scout lined up navigational sights with markers on the runway.

A few seconds later, Jeb landed the plane safely. But instead of taxiing to the terminal, the image in front of them reset. It was Matthew’s turn to operate the flight simulator.

Jeb, Matthew, and four other Scouts from Kailua, Hawaiʻi were in Alaska Airlines’ Flight Training Center in Seattle to participate in Aviation Day, Alaska’s annual event to inspire young people to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace.

Aviation Day provides the opportunity for youth to gain hands-on experience and meet professionals from across the aviation industry. Captain Tom Rogers founded the event in 2008 to introduce young people to various career paths in the industry. This year, Seattle’s Aviation Day welcomed around 1,500 participants including Scouts, STEM groups, Civil Air Patrol, and other clubs from across the Pacific Northwest. This is the first year Alaska has flown Hawaiʻi youth to participate in Aviation Day.

Welcoming the next generation of aviators

The Hawaiʻi Scouts from Troop 331 and Aviation Explorer Hawaiʻi Post 2013 were selected because of their interest in careers in aviation. The Aviation Exploring Program focuses on hands-on learning and is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.

Throughout the day, the Hawaiʻi Scouts operated a second, immersive flight simulator, learned about safety systems by practicing emergency evacuations, and toured various aircraft at Alaska’s Sea-Tac Hangar. Their favorite aircraft? The Apache helicopter, manned by the U.S. Army. They also visited the Alaska Airlines Network Operations Center and learned how different teams come together to run the Alaska Airlines network safely and efficiently.

For the Scouts, participating in Aviation Day affirmed their future career paths.

“I want my entire career, my whole life, to be flying,” said Explorer Nathan Grach. “I got to meet a lot of different pilots and engineers, and it really opened my eyes to how much there is to aviation. Growing up in Hawaiʻi, you only see a little bit of it. By coming out here, I got to see so many things and meet a lot of people.”

“I’m a big aviation nerd. I love all things aviation and I jumped at the opportunity to come to Seattle,” said Jeb, a Troop 331 Life Scout who plans to follow in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a career as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot. “Aviation Day made me more excited because there are opportunities outside of the military for aviation and some other cool career paths with helicopters that I haven’t been informed of before now.”

Jeb’s father Chad Vaughn is now a Hawaiian Airlines First Officer and serves as a leader to Troop 331. He joined Hawaiian Airlines following a 26-year career as a Marine Corps aviator.

Any time we can expand their horizons, especially by seeing things away from the Islands and seeing different ways of doing things, it’s an awesome opportunity,” said First Officer Vaughn. “Mentors were very important to me growing up, both on the military aviation side, as well as the commercial aviation side. I think all of us want to continue to give back and provide that mentorship and that spark to the Scouts.”

Our amazing volunteers

The Hawaiʻi Scouts were guided through Aviation Day activities by Mauricio Guerra Escamez, Alaska’s Managing Director of the Enterprise Project Management Organization. Aviation Day is a volunteer-led effort, with more than 250 aviation professionals lending their time to lead young people through the activities—all while dispensing advice about their own careers. Many of the volunteers are current or retired Alaska employees.

As volunteers, we are custodians of this great event,” said Guerra Escamez. “We all share a passion for this industry, and that is what makes this event so special. We want to be able to build the leaders of tomorrow within our communities.”

Throughout the day, the Scouts spoke with a variety of volunteers, including aviators, engineers, flight attendants, and operations specialists. Each emphasized that the day’s activities serve as a glimpse into the aviation industry’s shared spirit of teamwork.

“It’s easy to look at a plane and say, ‘I want to go fly the plane,’” said First Officer Vaughn. “But the more that you understand the background of what goes into making that plane fly, whether it’s the maintenance, the operations center, the cabin crew—all those different pieces work together as a team.”

“For me personally, it is a time when I can share my passion for the aviation industry with young adults and share my career path that allowed me to join the Alaska Airlines Group,” said Guerra Escamez. “We measure success today with smiles from attendees experiencing Aviation Day and sharing with them what a career in this industry can offer.”