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Spartanburg Downtown Airport shares 'inherent love of flying'

A South Carolina airport is expanding the definition of “airport community” by showcasing a local educational outreach effort to the public during a national celebration of flight.

In addition to learning about piloting aircraft, students learn about the mechanics and maintenance of aircraft. Photo by Les Singleton.

On Aug. 22, Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport will invite the public in for an Airport Showcase event in a week of activities after the Aug. 19 celebration—on Orville Wright’s birthday—of National Aviation Day.

The event from 9 a.m. to noon may introduce Spartanburg-area residents to the Spartanburg Community Aviation Program, a partnership project of the airport and the Spartanburg Science Center, said the city-owned airport’s manager, Terry Connorton.

The effort is part of a statewide aviation salute. According to a news release from the South Carolina Aviation Association, volunteers from the aviation community are giving six students who were selected to participate in the free program the opportunity “to fully explore careers in the aviation industry.

“What began with a desire to experience simulated flight turned into the first-of-its-kind-in-South-Carolina Spartanburg Community Aviation Program, where selected students have spent Sundays since June 2 at the general aviation airport,” it said. “There, they are learning with the Civil Air Patrol about careers in the U.S. Air Force; experiencing a flight simulator; experiencing an instructional glider flight; attending an FAA safety meeting; refueling and servicing aircraft; being an aviation mechanic for a day; and flying a powered flight.”

Volunteers from the aviation community around Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport give their time to instruct selected students in aspects of aviation. Photo by Les Singleton.

“Partnering with Spartanburg Science Center to bring the value of the aviation industry to area students for no fee is exciting,” Connorton said. “The instructors are passionate about what they do. There is no better environment for the next generation of the aviation industry workforce to learn in than one with engaged and enthusiastic teachers.”

A look at the Spartanburg Science Center’s website underlines its focus on inspiring teens to “reach for the sky.”

Mary Levens, the science center’s interim executive director and a teacher with 43 years’ experience, told AOPA that the program arose from brainstorming ways to respond to frequent requests from the community for access to a flight simulator.

“We are so excited,” she said. “There is, for lack of a better word, an inherent love of flying.”

The Spartanburg Community Aviation Program’s culminating event has been scheduled for Aug. 22, when the students will give presentations on their airport experiences as part of the airport’s Aviation Week showcase.

The airport will also take the opportunity to highlight its $30 million runway expansion project that will enhance its capacity to serve its “Upstate” region and the area’s major manufacturers.

Even when the airport was mostly out of action for the runway overhaul, Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport displayed its big-hearted approach to community service. In September 2018, AOPA reported on how the airport—closed except for helicopter operations—transformed itself to a base of relief operations for Hurricane Florence, becoming a hub for first responders, pilots, and support personnel.

The Spartanburg activities are part of South Carolina’s celebration of the economic and educational impact of airports and the aviation industry planned in partnership with the South Carolina Aviation Association and the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission.

Students selected to participate in the free program have the opportunity to explore diverse aspects of the aviation industry. Photo by Les Singleton.
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: Airport, Events, Training and Safety

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