Aviation Innovation in the Shenandoah Valley: The NextGen Aviators Program

February 23, 2022 – Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Life is made possible by the creative and innovative philosophies of our companies.  Manufacturing is the largest private sector employment base in the Valley and while we are known for our food and beverage sector, our robust manufacturing economy encompasses a broad range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, electronics, industrial HVAC equipment, paper manufacturing, aviation and more.  The focus of this cooking show is aviation and the star is a homegrown company that has a long history of entrepreneurial spirit, growth and accomplishment obtaining a worldwide reach – Dynamic Aviation.

Founded in 1966 as K&K Aircraft, Inc., it was a small aircraft parts business that later purchased a fleet of airplanes. Over the next three decades, the company expanded its operations into aerial applications for pest eradication, aerial firefighting support, and data acquisition for defense, civil, and aerospace customers.  The values imbued within the company are a reflection of the founders and of the Shenandoah Valley’s ethos: unity, compliance, constant innovation, equity, stewardship of resources and enthusiasm.  Led by Michael Stoltzfus, the CEO and third generation aviator, the trend continues as exemplified by Michael’s vision for introducing the next generation to career paths in the aviation and manufacturing sectors.  Thus was born the NextGen Aviators Program.

In February, seven site selectors joined us as we streamed live from Dynamic Aviation’s Legacy Aircraft Maintenance Hanger, where Dynamic Aviation is rebuilding and restoring historically significant aircraft, most notably the first Air Force One built for President Eisenhower.  This setting is where Dynamic conducts in-person NextGen Aviators programs in which students perform hands-on activities based on aviation applications.  Michael Stoltzfus provided a historical overview of Dynamic Aviation and Kala Dougan, NextGen Aviators Operations Supervisor, “walked” everyone through the various learning workstations.  To stay in the theme of “cooking”, Kala guided SVP executive director Jay Langston and our consultant guests through the assembly of a NextGen Aviators metal plane at the metal fabrication workstation. Registered site selectors were shipped the metal plane parts, complimentary tool kit, and local snacks prior to the show.  Michael culminated the show with a walk-through of the historically significant aircraft in the hanger that Dynamic Aviation has restored for public benefit, including Miss Virginia, a beautifully restored DC3 (originally designated as a C47 for the military) built in 1943 and flown on numerous occasions.

The Shenandoah Valley is more than just food and beverage and this cooking class is the first in our series of highlighting additional industries in an interactive and unique way. Don’t worry – site selectors will still be receive locally-produced Shenandoah Valley products, get to meet incredible Shenandoah Valley business leaders, and participate in an interactive virtual event each quarter.  And because we love our food and beverage sector, we will return to cooking!  Stay tuned for more details.

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