“This is awesome!”
“This is just so awesome!”
And so it was. Except that it was really just a normal day at the airport—severe clear, blue skies, helicopters hovering, and the gamut of general aviation fixed-wing aircraft taking off and landing.
The exclamations of wonder came from a crowd you don’t normally meet at the airport. AOPA’s National Aviation Community Center (NACC) opened its substantial hangar doors to Soldierfit, a gym located in the vicinity of the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland that specializes in bootcamp workouts. And one of those classes was about to take place at the hangar and its environs. As Soldierfit’s members filed into the venue, they looked around and marveled at the sights, exclaiming: “Awesome.” “Look at that—did you see that airplane take off?” “This is so great!”
The NACC’s mission is to welcome the local community to the airport and general aviation. Soldierfit’s athletes are a perfect fit. They come from all walks of life but like most people are not familiar with aviation beyond the sterility of the big hubs. Being on the actual airfield, watching helicopters from the flight school next door hover-taxi, seeing (and hearing) biplanes and jets take off or land one after the other on the runway closest to the hangar was a first for most of them.
About 100 showed up for an hour-long bootcamp session. It was a given that Jason Henline, Soldierfit’s Top Black Hat at the Frederick location, fashioned an aviation-themed workout. “Air-obic” exercises included dive bomber push-ups, banking turns, airplane tugs, and takeoffs. The control tower staff, which was told about the event, must have had a ball watching the horde storming out of the hangar, flapping their wings—errr arms—for that last exercise. Of course the workout was accompanied by the requisite aircraft noises and soundtrack, led by “Danger Zone” from Top Gun. Judging by frequent giggles and outright laughs, everyone seemed to have a really good time.
The NACC had a couple of aircraft on display and had staffed several simulators, as well as its full-motion Redbird FMX flight simulator with wrap-around visual display. After the workout was over, Soldierfit’s members walked around, took pictures in front of airplanes, of airplanes, the airport, peeked into cockpits, sat in the aircraft, and enjoyed flying the simulators. Nobody rushed to leave.
Many commented on the friendly environment and accessibility of the airport. “We thought this was more like a big club for members only, we had no idea we could just come here and hang out,” marveled a member who had also brought her children. “There’s even a restaurant,” wondered another.
Will all of them run off and take flying lessons? Probably not (even though a couple might). Will all of them have a newfound appreciation for the airport and small aircraft? You bet!
AOPA’s NACC is located at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland. It can be booked for aviation-related events, as well as community events, and private meetings. It currently hosts regular weekend movie nights, focusing on aviation-related movies like Top Gun, Amelia, Planes: Fire & Rescue, and more. Find more information online.