Roving dens of Cub Scouts recently quenched their thirst for aviation when day campers descended on Zenith Aircraft Co. to learn about building and flying small airplanes. About 150 Jefferson City, Missouri, youths studied aircraft systems and flight dynamics, soaked up safety tips, and bucked rivets at the factory before they jumped into cockpits for a first-hand look at aviation from a pilot’s perspective.
“I like to talk to them about the similarities between the human body and the parts of an airplane, just like ribs and skin on our own bodies,” said Zenith Aircraft President Sebastien Heintz. “They relate to it better that way.”
Glass panel displays in the Zenith aircraft were familiar to a generation raised with computer screens within reach since they were infants. “That’s the thing with glass panel displays. It’s a lot more intuitive because they’re already used to it from playing on iPads and computers,” Heintz said. “They feel this is cool.”
The Scouts discovered the basics of lift, drag, thrust, and aerodynamics and relished their new viewpoint from the flight deck. Many happily wiggled flight controls, punched up electronic displays, and imagined themselves as future aviators surrounded by the latest in glass panel technology.
Heintz said the Cub Scouts were surprised about flying’s simplicity. “Flying is perceived as magical so a lot of outsiders think it’s really complicated,” he said. “They don’t realize it’s accessible to the average person.”
The CNC machine fascinated the Scouts because of the way it cuts smaller parts from larger chunks of metal. Workers explained how every single part is just as important as its neighbor. Heintz pointed out that kit airplanes aren’t much different than model airplanes put together on the kitchen table—they’re just bigger.
“It was a learning experience that was perfectly disguised as fun,” said Heintz. “They absorbed all kinds of knowledge; they even pulled some rivets—and they never once realized they were in the middle of an ‘educational experience.’ They loved it, and so did we.”