Photos and Story by Penny Rafferty Hamilton
As a long-time aviation educator sometimes we forget how important tactile and experiential experiences are to sharing the joy of aviation. Taking used aviation magazines to a pre-school and asking the eager children to pick out colors from all the airplane pictures. Even cutting airplane photos out and printing their own name on the airplane they picked leaves an impression on them. Kindergarten students often enjoy making tongue-blade airplanes decorated with glue and glitter. At our Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum, we have a selfie-dress up station with costumes for future flight attendants and pilots. Our wannabe aviation mechanics can use our screw gun to take apart a matching airplane which keeps us constantly inserting new batteries!
Recently, our aviation museum volunteers held another free, family-friendly community open house all day on a Friday because our local school system is 4-day, Monday to Thursday. The Grand County Historical Association Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum, located in the historic former Rocky Mountain Airways airline terminal on Granby/Grand County Airport, introduced the Flight Simulator experience to anyone interested in trying their hands on the yoke of the donated Fantasy of Flight Foundation sims, under the watchful eyes of volunteer, Aaron Skinner, whose day job is airline pilot.
Literally, nine-year old wannabe pilots to age 69, enjoyed the experience of flying from their home town airport. Aaron programmed the simulators to take off from GNB. You could fly over the Granby cemetery. See Lake Granby. You could land and taxi right to the former airline terminal. Because you can enjoy the experience with friends, flight sims are an excellent tool to focus young minds on aviation opportunities. Parents were delighted to share the experience too taking the own opportunity to be PIC. They even got to pick the color they wanted “their” plane to be. One mother emailed me after the “flights,” that her boys kept talking about the experience more than a trip to the Denver amusement park because there they were passive on the thrilling amusement rides. But, with the flight simulator experience, they were able to fly and feel fully involved in only a few minutes. The actual “hands-on” really made their “flights” personal, especially flying over their own town to see familiar landmarks and places they know so well.
Of course, the whole atmosphere of our aviation museum is “come on in and have some fun with us.” Many airports are gated and closed off to the general public because of today’s security requirements. Located on their community airport for them to walk, bike, drive or fly-in, gives the Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum volunteers the unique opportunity and mission to share the “Gospel of Aviation” with young and older visitors. Learn more at www.GrandCountyHistory.org One idea, even commercial airports should consider, if they have not already done so, is to create an interactive aviation education room for families and passengers to introduce aviation to the general public before their flight. Interactive kiosk about aviation history, aviation career opportunities, airport, and even local aviation heroes/pioneers could be located throughout the terminal. After all, these passengers are “captive” for a while and most love technology.