Nurturing Advocacy at the CLT Aviation Academy

Feb. 27, 2024 – In the world and business of travel, the CLT Aviation Academy stands out as a source of inspiration for community members looking to understand Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s importance in the Queen City.

The CLT Aviation Academy is an annual program that provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to better understand the Airport’s inner workings and its contributions to our economy, transportation system and community. Aviation Academy participants gain behind-the-scenes access to current operations and future CLT planning efforts.

The first day participants receive an intense introduction to CLT, and over the course of the next nine weeks they experience life in the terminal, see first-hand the Airport construction through the Destination CLT infrastructure improvement program, meet the Airport’s leadership and its business partners and learn how safety and security of CLT’s 20,000-plus workers and 53.4 million passengers (an annual record as of 2023) is a top priority.

The key strength of the Aviation Academy is in the success of its graduates, who in exchange for the very cool experience they receive go on to be advocates for the Airport in their communities and workplaces. We want them to share the Airport’s story. Some go further seeking to be involved in the community in bigger ways.

Nakia Savage of Charlotte had completed the City of Charlotte’s Civic Leadership Academy when she learned about the Aviation Academy. Living close to the Airport, she often wondered what was happening here. She signed up and went on to graduate in 2022, but she did not stop there.

Savage joined the Airport Community Roundtable (ACR), a broad-based community group that provides feedback to Airport leadership. She cites the knowledge she gained with the Aviation Academy for inspiring her desire to continue learning more about the Airport. She still serves on the ACR. Listen as she shares her story in this video on our website.

Victoria Watlington participated in Aviation Academy in 2018. She later set her sights on Charlotte City Council where she was first elected to the district that encompasses the Airport. She currently serves as an at-large representative. As a council member, she continues her community advocacy as a champion of workforce and business development, economic mobility, responsible growth and infrastructure and community engagement.

Not everyone who participates in the Aviation Academy goes on to hold office or join committees. Some have become volunteers at Airport-sponsored events like the CLT Runway 5K or the Airport triennial disaster drill. There are even people who have joined the ranks of Airport Volunteers. This year, a chaplain and volunteer from the USO Charlotte Airport Center are enrolled to learn more about the Airport.

No matter what they go on to do, all the Aviation Academy graduates walk away with having had a unique experience and with a greater understanding and appreciation for CLT and its impact as an employer and economic driver in the region and state.

So far, 137 people have joined the alumni ranks of the Aviation Academy. The class of 2024, which graduates March is meeting now, is the largest group in the Academy’s history – 36 people will graduate in March 21. And who knows where this unique experience will take them or if it will inspire them to soar to new heights as community leaders and Airport advocates.  

With its commitment to empowering advocacy among community leaders and members, the possibilities for Aviation Academy graduates are boundless.

Stay tuned for more information about the Class of 2025 and how you can join. Information is shared on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn (use the handle @cltairport) and on the CLT Aviation Academy webpage.