A License to Learn

‘Aspiring Aviators’ Issue

FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff
5 min readSep 6


By Larry Fields, (Acting) FAA Flight Standards Service Executive Director

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.” — Wilbur Wright, aviation pioneer

“Prepare for the unknown, unexpected, and inconceivable … after 50 years of flying I’m still learning every time I fly.” — Gene Cernan, American astronaut

Welcome to this aspiring aviator-themed issue of FAA Safety Briefing. We’re excited to share what we hope will educate, motivate, and inspire you to embark on a path to pilothood, or perhaps continue on a journey to broadening your aviation horizons. It’s an incredibly exciting time in aviation, with industry change occurring at near light speed.

Photo of two pilots.

With that change comes multiple opportunities for aspiring aviators, whether their pursuits are tied to more traditional paths of recreational and/or commercial flying, or involve some of the newer and up-and-coming sectors like drones, electric air-taxis, and commercial space flight. In fact, in June the FAA proposed a new set of rules to train and certify pilots flying powered-lift aircraft, an important step toward safely advancing advanced air mobility or AAM. These new rules are necessary because many of the proposed AAM aircraft take off and land like a helicopter, but fly enroute like an airplane. These proposed rules follow closely to another integration milestone, an updated blueprint for airspace and procedure changes for these future air taxi operations. You can find out more about these here.

Photo of air taxi.

At the FAA, we’re committed to helping strengthen the pipeline of aviators and attracting new members to the aviation community. This is critical to help address workforce shortages spurred by the pandemic and the rapid growth of the industry. Earlier this year we provided $10M in grants to 23 schools in the U.S. to help train students for careers as pilots and aviation maintenance technicians as part of an Aviation Workforce Development grant program, as well as an additional round of grants announced in July. Recipients can use the funding to establish new educational programs; provide scholarships or apprenticeships; conduct outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry; and support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged areas.

For those younger folks aspiring to get involved with aviation, the FAA’s Airport Design Challenge provides students in grades K-12 with a uniquely interactive and collaborative learning experience. Students work in small groups along with FAA aerospace and engineering experts to design virtual airports using the popular video game Minecraft. The challenge offers first-hand experience in an aviation-related application of STEM concepts and helps students apply their academic knowledge and skills to professional simulations. To learn more and see some of our previous finalists, go to


If you’re already considering becoming a pilot, we’ve got resources on our online pilot portal to help you find information on certification, training, regulations and more ( And be sure to check out our “How to Become a Pilot” episode (season 3, episode 3) of the FAA’s Air Up There podcast series at In it you’ll hear perspectives from Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz, the author of Latinas in Aviation; Dawne Barrett, the leader of the operations supervisor workshop for the FAA; and Captain Jill Mills, Chief Pilot at United Airlines.

Regardless of what type of aeronautical endeavor you choose to pursue, safety should always be your north star. That requires — as both Wilbur and Gene point out above — a dedication to continued learning and practice of your skill. Be sure to take advantage of the many resources available at the FAA, including those discussed throughout this issue, to continue on a path of professionalism and safety.

A perfect example of this is the FAA Safety Team’s WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program, which is designed to help improve your skills and knowledge as a pilot. In fact, you can earn a stage of WINGS after certain flight certification activities, like a private pilot checkride. It’s a great way to stay sharp and safe, so check it out today.

Safe flying!

This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.



FAA Safety Briefing
Cleared for Takeoff

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Magazine that is part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).