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Youth in Aviation

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga

By Jack Kiyonaga, Editor

Twelve Molokai youth recently had a chance to begin their journey towards a career in aviation. Molokai’s own Hikili’i Chow, a commercial pilot, led the charge leading a Youth in Aviation program last weekend through the Aloft nonprofit.

“The main goal is to introduce kids to many different aviation jobs,” said Chow. During the three-day camp, kids had flight lessons, met air traffic controllers, firefighters, mechanics, pilots and more.

“When you look at these aviation jobs, not many of them are filled by Molokai people,” explained Chow.

Chow, a 2017 graduate from Molokai High School (MHS), has flown for Lanai Air for four years after a year and a half with Mokulele. She is the only female pilot in the history of Molokai High School.

“The first of many,” she predicted. “A lot of that is exposure and a clear pathway to get into those jobs. We don’t see anybody who looks like us or know anybody who did it.”

Now, Chow is trying to offer these pathways for a new generation.

The track to becoming a pilot can be confusing. Chow explained that she “took out a really huge loan” to enroll in a pilot training program, which enabled her to get her license in just nine months.

“I wish I had a mentorship program,” she said. Being a pilot is “a really unique trade, and you can tailor it to what fits you best.”

Kai Silva, a freshman at MHS and one of the participants in the camp, explained that “I was mostly excited about getting to fly a plane.”

Other participants were interested in aircraft mechanics, firefighting, and other jobs that interact with aviation.

Ultimately, Chow wanted kids to gain an experience that they could reflect on, even if they don’t go into aviation.

“You can think back to when I was in middle and high school and be like, ‘wow I flew a plane,’” said Chow.

Chow also wanted to expose the participants to the possibility of private plane ownership, something she calls “more accessible than one would imagine” — equating it in price to a new Toyota Tundra. The age one can earn a pilot’s license is actually younger than a driver’s license.

“It’s not so far away that we could all have a cousin or uncle with a plane,” said Chow.

Randell Albertson, a Maui firefighter, started the Aloft nonprofit in the hopes of uplifting community members creating a positive influence. The Youth in Aviation is Aloft’s founding program, beginning earlier this year at the Kahului Airport.

“[Chow] is amazing,” said Albertson. “I let them run their community. I just run around and make sandwiches and make sure they have what they need.”

Next week Aloft is taking the Youth in Aviation program to Lanai. The goal, said Albertson, is to have a flight school on Molokai.


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