YAZ (Young Aviators Zone)


Join us in the YAZ during the 13th annual Expo and meet some incredible aviators who have broken records, defied the odds, and gone on to build remarkable aviation-related careers.

  • Students with a paid adult get in FREE
  • Swag bags for grabs in the YAZ   
  • Meet stunt pilots, race pilots, and aviation entrepreneurs in the YAZ

About YAZ

The mission of the YAZ is to promote education, empowerment and safety in aviation for youth and especially minorities and women (ages 16-21) with an emphasis on economically under served areas.

The population of women and minority pilots and aviation professionals is staggeringly low when compared to other professions. The number of African-American male pilots working for major airlines in the United States is less than one half of one percent. The number of female African-American pilots is even lower. For women pilots of all races, there are fewer than 10 percent.

YAZ is designed to to encourage the population of youth, minorities, and women pilots, by providing a forum for aviation communication and education as well as scholarships that will enable participants to learn to fly, become advocates in their communities for aviation, and become an inspiration to others. Scholarships are funded through U.S. Sport Aviation Institute, the non-profit arm of Sebring’s Expo.

Please check back to find out about the 2018 line up of participants.

About the participating aviators for 2017 event:

Jamail Larkins: A World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, Experienced Aerobatic Pilot, and in demand public speaker, Jamail Larkins is an entrepreneur, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of two successful companies, and the first Ambassador for Aviation & Space Education for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration. At the age of 12, he took his flight through the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Program and became fanatic with looking at the world from a different perspective. Falling in love at first flight, Jamail decided he would do whatever it took to continue flying.

Shaesta Waiz: Born in a refugee camp, Shaesta Waiz and her family traveled from Afghanistan to America in 1987 to escape the Soviet‐Afghan war. Shaesta became the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan. At Embry‐Riddle, she also started the Women’s Ambassador Program — an initiative that seeks to mentor and support young women pursuing an education in aviation and engineering — then sought to advance her efforts to a global scale. Late 2014, Shaesta founded Dreams Soar to share her story with women around the world, to let them know it is possible to achieve your dreams, regardless of the challenges and traditions you may face.

La’Shanda Holmes: Why she is a local hero and a game changer: Holmes overcame early adversity in her life to become the first black female helicopter pilot in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. Holmes’ early life was difficult to say the least: Her mother committed suicide when she was 2, and after abuse occurred in the foster home where she lived, Holmes was separated from her sibling. The first time she was out over the water in a helicopter, Holmes knew she was hooked.

Wally Funk: At 20 years old, Funk became a professional aviator. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador. Funk was one of the Mercury 13, which refers to thirteen American women who, as part of a privately funded program, underwent some of the same physiological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959 for Project Mercury. Funk was the first female air safety investigator for the NTSB, the first civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first Federal Aviation Agency inspector.

Melissa Mathiasen: She is a Test Pilot for Sikorsky Global Helicopters at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. Melissa was the first woman to fly with Arctic Air/s Santa Maria-based crew of eight and one of few women who ever went out to the platforms, since the majority of PXP employees and contract workers were men.

Melissa Mathiasen will share her history and experiences including the Legacy of Heroes Tour to India. This tour celebrated the exemplary and heroic actions of those who fly and maintain Sikorsky aircraft around the world.

Patty Wagstaff: A six-time member of the US Aerobatic Team, Patty has won the gold, silver and bronze medals in Olympic-level international aerobatic competition and is the first woman to win the title of US National Aerobatic champion and one of the few people to win it three times. Patty one of the world’s top airshow pilots, flies thrilling, low-level aerobatic demonstrations before millions of people each year.  Her breathtaking performances give airshow spectators a front-row seat view of the precision and complexity of modern, unlimited hard-core aerobatics. Her smooth aggressive style sets the standard for performers the world over.