If kids didn’t pick up on the message – “Aviation is for everyone.” – it’s not for lack of trying. The second annual Kansas Aviation Expo set out on September 22 for a three-day, three-stops-a-day Fly Kansas air tour. High-school bands played. Speakers addressed local schoolchildren and, at each stop, highlighted different aspects of aviation. The role of airports in a community. The many uses for helicopters. The brave new world of unmanned aerial vehicles. There were demos of full-motion flight simulators, tours of aircraft manufacturing plants, and one-on-one interaction with aviation professionals who are out there every day. Living the dream.
An Adventure in Learning
Day Four found the tour in Wichita where hundreds of teens participated in Captain Barrington Irving’s Flying Classroom as it begins its global tour.
The 30-year-old, Jamaican-born Irving plans to set new world records as he travels to all seven continents and connects with youth worldwide. He can do it, too. This National Geographic Emerging Explorer became the youngest person to fly solo around the world in 2007. For his current endeavor, he’s using a transformed business jet, a Hawker 400XPR. It serves as a virtual classroom promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for grades 3 through 10. The kids also had the chance to learn about aviation career opportunities at booths hosted by local employers.
“It was fantastic to see all these companies come out to help inspire the next generation of aviation leaders,” says Jesse Romo, director of the Kansas Department of Transportation Aviation. “Our outreach included direct interaction with at least 900 kids. I’m confident we sparked some dreams. Hopefully some big ones.”
Thursday evening 31-year-old Amelia Rose Earhart regaled attendees with anecdotes from her recent round-the-world flight, retracing the route taken in 1937 by her famed namesake. Amelia uses her position as president of the Fly With Amelia Foundation to encourage girls to follow her lead. The foundation’s flight-training scholarships should prove to be positive game-changers for deserving young women.
This gentleman watched Amelia Mary Earhart depart from Oakland International Airport in 1937.
He was waiting with a giant bouquet of roses when Amelia Rose Earhart returned on July 11, 2014 and became the youngest woman to fly around the world in a single-engine plane. He said he’d waited 77 years to deliver those flowers.
From Barnstorming to Business The expo’s final, fifth day brought speakers representing a broad aviation spectrum, from avionics and security to medical issues and regulations. Congressman Mike Pompeo, a longtime champion for aviation and education, served as the lunchtime keynote speaker, which doubled as the September meeting of the Wichita Aero Club. Pompeo’s Small Aircraft Revitalization Act (SARA) was signed into law in November 2013. It gives the FAA until the end of 2015 to adopt changes to the regulations governing the certification of many general aviation aircraft – although those in the know say there will be delays in meeting this deadline. Regardless of when it’s finally implemented, Pompeo told the Air Capital crowd, “It will give you the opportunity to compete for customers all around the world.”
My colleagues and I left the event inspired by all we’d heard – especially the themes of never taking no for an answer and not letting others set expectations for you. After last year’s inaugural expo, everyone hoped the event would continue to grow. It has. “We couldn’t have asked for a better show,” Romo says. And, ever the idea man, he starts sharing thoughts about next year’s event. I can’t wait.
Featured in top image: Kansas Department of Transportation Division of Aviation Director Jesse Romo (left) and Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education President Brian Youngers lead the organizations hosting this year’s expo.