Pupils told of aviation careers

Eric Burdette
Eric Burdette

A pilot for Southwest Airlines and graduate of Pine Bluff High School encouraged students to pursue careers in aviation engineering at a recent Future Engineers Program hosted virtually by the Ivy Center for Education.

The special guest was Eric Burdette, who spoke to students about his journey to become a commercial airline pilot and who outlined the major steps, education, certifications, flight training hours and costs associated with an aviation career.

The monthly meeting was for middle and high school students enrolled in the the program, according to a news release.

Sederick Charles Rice, an associate professor of biology and site director for the HBCU Med-Track Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, hosted the event.

Burdette, who graduated from Pine Bluff High in 1989, encouraged students to choose careers in flight engineering -- not only as pilots, but also in the areas of airplane maintenance and air traffic control.

Ivy Center students asked questions about Burdette's motivation to fly an airplane, and he spoke about the role of his mother, Juanita Currie, and former instructor, Ken Johnson, who were mentors and major motivators for him to learn how to fly.

Rice presented mathematical puzzle challenges for students to solve to earn $25 gift cards and provided homework assignments for students to review Rate of Wind, Mathematics of Flight, and Tailwind Headwind word problems.

Ivy Center student Ivan Armour, a freshman in the White Hall School District, commented on the presentation.

"I was seriously impacted by Mr. Burdette's presentation," Armour said. "As a young Black man, he overcame many obstacles to become a pilot. He also talked about a future in the industry for women of color."

The overall goal of the Future Engineers Program is to encourage and motivate students to choose educational paths and careers within various engineering fields because of the opportunities, intellectual development, creative thinking, financial security, challenging work and potential to benefit society, according to the news release.

For details about the Future Engineers Program, send an email to drriceuapb@gmail.com or mattie1908@gmail.com.