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Mobility aviators inspire youth at Aviation Day

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

U.S. Air Force Capt. John Greenway (left), and U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Gossett, both C-17 Globemaster III instructor pilots assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., fly a C-17 to Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla., for the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020. This is the 97th AMW’s first time attending the event, where they represented the Air Force with more than 6,000 children and their families attending the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christian Allegood, a KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., speaks to a family about the aircraft during the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. For the first time, Mobility’s Hometown sent C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 crews to help educate, recruit and inspire young dreamers attending the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III (left), and a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, both assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., are put on static display during the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. To work towards an interest in aviation careers, commercial, private and military aviation professionals teamed up to host the third annual Aerospace and Aviation Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Andrew Mazzarelli, a C-17 Globemaster III instructor pilot assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., demonstrates how to fly the aircraft to a young girl during the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. This event is designed for students from across the Seminole County School District to become inspired and follow their dreams in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and aviation careers through meeting real-world professionals in a hands on experience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

A young boy questions what a button does on a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., during the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. During this all-day event, C-17 and KC-135 crews used their jets as static displays for students to tour. During their time inside the aircraft, attendees will have the opportunity to get to know the crew, airframe and the wide variety of aviation careers the Air Force has to offer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

Multiple people attending the Aerospace and Aviation Day, tours a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. Each crew from Mobility’s Hometown was comprised of a variety of Airmen from different careers, varying from loadmaster, to boom operator to instructor pilots. This variety of careers allowed visitors to explore the vast possibilities of an Air Force career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau, an F-35 contract instructor pilot, speaks to attendants of the Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. After serving 20 years in the Air Force, Mau spoke to students about the benefits of an aviation career and what it has done for her. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

Children and families attend Aerospace and Aviation Day 2020.

A young girl attending the Aerospace and Aviation Day looks out the cockpit window of a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla. By attending this event, young aviators got the once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the possibilities of an aviation career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are about 600,000 active pilots throughout the United States, but that number has been gradually declining throughout the past decade. To work towards an interest in aviation careers, commercial, private and military aviation professionals teamed up to host the third annual Aerospace and Aviation Day, Jan. 25, 2020, at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Fla.

For the first time, 97th Air Mobility Wing C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker crews from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., attended this event to help educate, recruit and inspire more than 6,000 elementary through college level students.

This event focused on inspiring students from across the Seminole County School District, in central Fla., and encouraged them to their dreams in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and aviation, by meeting real-world professionals in a hands-on experience.

“I love going to these types of events because it’s awesome seeing the children's reactions to every little thing,” said Maj. Andrew Mazzarelli, a C-17 instructor pilot assigned to the 97th AMW. “Answering all their questions, seeing all the ‘wows’ and their eyes lighting up as soon as they step inside the aircraft - it’s something that will never get old.”

At this all-day event, C-17 and KC-135 crews used their jets as static displays for students to tour. As families toured inside the aircrafts, attendees received the opportunity to get to know the crew, airframe and the wide variety of aviation careers the Air Force has to offer.

“We are building the future of the Air Force every time we come to an event like this,” said Capt. Damian Franz, a C-17 instructor pilot assigned to the 97th AMW. “For many of the young children, this might be their first time on a military aircraft, or even on an aircraft this size. I know this is something that they won’t ever forget, and this reassures me that we are making a difference in their lives.”

Each crew from 97th AMW was comprised of Airmen in different careers, including loadmasters, boom operators and instructor pilots. This variety allowed students to explore the vast possibilities of an Air Force career.

“For some of us here, events like these are what started our passion for aviation and a career in the Air Force,” said Mazzarelli. “The ability to share the love that I have for this aircraft with a community is amazing. I think it’s extremely important that the Air Force continues to represent, educate and inspire young children to do great things at events like these.”

Pilots and attendees from major commercial airline companies were also in attendance at the event. Similar to the 97th AMW crews, these professionals opened the doors of their aircraft, allowing curious families to experience what it takes to make an aircraft fly.

Additionally, guest speakers Taryn Fleet, Allegiant Air Airbus pilot, and retired Lt. Col. Christine Mau, F-35 Lightning II contract instructor pilot, spoke to students at the event about the benefits of an aviation career.

Representatives from the Mighty 97th gave young aviators a valuable opportunity to explore the possibilities of an aviation career, with the hopes of lighting a spark inside young minds.