Aviation Day: Multiple groups work together for local youth


– Photos by John Meiu

The Oakland County International Airport is the second busiest in the state yet its dedicated staff is not too busy to spare some time once a year to introduce the world of aviation to youth from Pontiac.

This year’s Aviation Day took place August 2, and again was the result of several enthusiastic groups working in tandem with county employees.

Retired Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester, coordinator of the event, said the airport hosted nearly 60 students from Pontiac with the goal of teaching them about careers in aviation, from being a pilot to working as a mechanic or attendant.

But the day was more than informational. Pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program were on hand to give 15- to 20-minute flights. 

“Each pilot takes two to three of our students and discusses with them, in a friendly way, the enthusiasm of flight and asks them if they would like to help fly the plane,” Mester
said. “When they land and exit the airplane there are unforgettable broad smiles on the students’ faces.”

The Young Eagles program involves commercial, military, and private pilots who fly throughout the country in their two- to four-seater planes to expose youth to the excitement of flying.

Dennis Glaeser, EAA Young Eagle coordinator, said his group was thrilled to participate.

“The Young Eagles program has dedicated 25 years to giving youth ages 8–17 their first free ride in an airplane,” Glaeser said.

In addition, Pentastar Aviation, a corporate aviation sales and service company based at the airport, informed students about aviation job opportunities. Pilots, mechanics, and support personnel are in great demand, according to Pentastar President Greg Schmidt.

“Pentastar has a commitment to supporting our community, and this event allows us to do so while introducing students to a number of fantastic career opportunities,” said Schmidt, who also serves as CEO of the company.

Also on hand for the event were helicopters and pilots from the Air National Guard and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office headed by Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

Brenda A. Causey-Mitchell, program director for the Pontiac School District’s Project Excel, expressed her appreciation to organizers of the event.

“Aviation Day allows students to have long memories and to dream of what they can become,” she said.

Cheryl Bush, manager of aviation and transportation at Oakland County International Airport, added that, “Many of these students will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. We hope to spark an interest in aviation with them – they could be future aviators at OCIA!” 

Attorney Dean Greenblatt, who was instrumental in launching Aviation Day more than a decade ago, said the event “has become a youth learning opportunity unmatched in other Michigan counties,” while also noting that “the airplane rides are pretty fun, too.”

J. David VanderVeen, director of Central Services for Oakland County, said Mester deserves special credit for the success of Aviation Day.

“Judge Mester has been the driving force behind Aviation Day for the better part of a decade,” VanderVeen said. “As Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ There seems no end to Judge Mester’s giving. He is a giver.”