By Fred “Crash” Blechman
More than 1,400 Los Angeles Unified School District students, representing approximately 25 Los Angeles high schools, attended the second annual “The Sky’s the Limit” Aviation Career Day on Friday, April 20. The event was held at the historic Syncro hangar at Van Nuys Airport.
Through its business and subtenants, Syncro Aviation, Inc., founded in 1983 by Barbara Cesar and her late husband, Ed Cesar, supports approximately 400 aviation and aerospace-related companies in Southern California and provides more than 100 jobs. Barbara Cesar, co-founder of Syncro Aviation and Syncro Aircraft Interiors, founded Aviation Career Day to build student awareness and interest in aviation and aerospace industry careers and to showcase career opportunities for young people in aviation and aerospace. More than 60 local aviation and aerospace firms showcased exhibits, with many offering applications for summer jobs or internship programs.
Syncro and the office of Los Angeles City Council Member Tony Cardenas hosted the event, in cooperation with the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, the Experimental Aircraft Association, Jet Fleet International, Van Nuys Airport and the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation.
John Ratzenberger, the co-founder of Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs, was the master of ceremonies for the event. The Emmy-nominated actor is best known as Cliff, the mailman, on the television show, “Cheers.” Ratzenberger has provided a voice for all Pixar Animation feature films and hosted “Made in America” on the Travel Channel. Most recently, he delighted fans by displaying previously hidden talents on “Dancing with the Stars.”
The mission of Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs is to interest youth in developing manual skills required by industries, workshops and engineering practices. NBTF’s goal is to introduce young people to the “pleasures of tinkering,” through mentoring programs, education and media awareness.
Students were bussed in from high schools in districts 1 and 2. Several hundred adults also attended.
Mike Machat was present to discuss his 22 hand-picked illustrations that now hang permanently on the walls of the “Historic Hallway” leading to the large Syncro Aviation hangar area. His display provided a walking tour through aviation history and was intended to spark the young attendees’ interest in the industry.
The retired aviation artist has created more than 250 major works for the U.S. Air Force, Douglas Aircraft, Airbus and a countless number of individual art collectors. Starting in 1967, he served in the Air Force as an illustrator. He went on to perform the same function for Douglas Aircraft in 1977. In 1979, he was accepted into the Air Force Art Program. A private pilot, Machat has flown in 203 different types of aircraft.
O.N.E., a rhythm and blues quartet, performed onstage to the cheers of the students. After a color guard presentation and the singing of the national anthem, Ratzenberger introduced the dignitaries, including Cardenas, and Cesar, who presented various awards and scholarships.
Attendees were able to get close to various classic aircraft on display in the Syncro hangar, including Clay Lacy’s DC-3 and his air race-winning purple P-51 Mustang. Coast Guard, fire and police departments had helicopters on display. As guests browsed at display booths and admired aircraft, members of the Black Sheep Squadron model airplane club flew various radio-controlled and rubber band-powered light model planes in a corner of the hangar.
Cathy Smithers, Van Nuys Airport public affairs, reported that five buses took almost 1,000 students on tours around the service roads and taxiways. To further interest the students, drivers described airport history and the various general aviation items they saw.