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Volunteers make Michigan airport a fun classroom

Pilots and other volunteers introduced aviation to about 80 students who took field trips to Michigan's Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, where they checked out aircraft, received a lesson in aerodynamics, met a uniformed professional pilot, and enjoyed some time piloting an AOPA Jay simulator. 

The event, held for the second time in 2015, was sponsored by the nonprofit flying club Michigan Flyers, and the Michigan Aviators, a club made up exclusively of University of Michigan students.

Club flight instructor Amelia Jayne coordinated the March 26 and 27 field trips that brought students from four schools to the airport. The event was held as a follow-up to The Women of Aviation Worldwide Week celebration that took place earlier in March, she said. 

Event organizers were aided by Survival Flight of the University of Michigan Health System, volunteers from the flying clubs, and several members of local Experimental Aircraft Association chapters.

Bryan Budds, AOPA Great Lakes regional manager, was in attendance, and provided the students with an opportunity to fly the AOPA Jay by Redbird. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mark Perry also participated.

"We were really thrilled with this event,” Jayne said in a telephone interview. She described the excitement of the students at the novelty of sitting in the cockpit of a rescue service helicopter, inspecting a Stearman biplane, and stepping around an airport traffic pattern laid out on a hangar floor—under the direction of a megaphone-equipped volunteer acting as an air traffic controller.

The visitors, ranging from fifth-graders to junior high schoolers and a few high school students, were divided into groups of five or six students, plus a guide, giving the tours a personal touch. They participated in four half-hour activities that included a lesson in aerodynamics and propulsion (complete with glider construction and flying, and rocket launches); the indoor traffic pattern circuit; hearing about professional aviation from a working pilot; and looking over the Stearman, owned by Christopher Dackson, outside on the terminal ramp. 

Jayne said the event served as "an alternative career eye-opener for young women" from schools of the South and West Washtenaw Consortium, a technical and career education organization that serves a number of area school districts. 

The idea of becoming a pilot was made personal to the visitors, Jayne said, when one of the volunteers explained how she had made her own dream of becoming a private pilot come true, flying and paying for lessons on her pay as a waitress.

"AOPA is grateful to have been asked to participate, and is proud to continue to support two of Michigan’s strongest flying clubs," said Budds. "Events like this will keep a younger generation of potential pilots engaged in aviation."

"We hope it continues to grow," said Harry Crespy, president of the Michigan Flyers.

"It was just great fun," added Jayne.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Flying Club, Aviation Industry

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