The Liberty Gazette
April 15, 2008
April 15, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: Edenton, NC (pop. 5,400), has an avid general aviation proponent in Amelia Reiheld. An ASN (Airport Support Network), Amelia is my counterpart at Edenton’s Northeast Regional Airport. “The town,” says Amelia, “steeped in colonial history, and surrounded by cotton fields, cypress swamp, and the Albemarle Sound, owns and operates a former Marine Corps Air Station, decommissioned after the Korean War.” Discussing how aviation encourages kids in math and science and various career choices, Amelia shared with me a recent experience hosting a special group of four-year olds.
“[The airport] is a quiet place, populated by a bunch of geezers restoring old airplanes, hanging onto their aging Cessnas out of sentimentality, and hanging out in the terminal shooting the breeze. Pilots from nearby towns practice approaches here often, UPS arrives in a Caravan three times a day, several bizjets call it home, and the occasional tourist shows up because we happened to be on their way to a destination with higher priced fuel, but that's about it, most days.”
When a friend called to ask if her pre-Kindergarten classes, primarily children with developmental delays, could come to the airport for their spring field trip, Amelia said ‘sure,’ and called a few old reliables to help out.
"This age group is a challenge, and some of these children are truly challenged (one has no hands and no legs, two have Downs Syndrome, some are affected by autism, and quite a few are diagnosably ADHD by the casual observer). Many, though, are smarter'n the average bear, and answered questions some grown-ups can't answer.
“We wandered around the tarmac and the children took turns sitting in a Cessna 150 and a Mooney, trying on headsets, and posing for photos. They marveled at the size of a crop duster and an MU-2, were amazed that some of the antiques were nearly 90 years old, and learned about how airplanes do some important work, taking people places, keeping the crops safe from bugs, teaching people to fly, bringing packages, and helping keep our country safe. We talked about wings, propellers and engines, flew a Piper Cub, thanks to MS Flight Simulator, took VFR charts home to their classrooms, and made paper airplanes. Sitting in an airplane, though, wearing a headset and wagging the control yoke back and forth, our little Walter Mittys were already aloft and winging their way through the skies. Lots of kids said they would like to learn to fly (although most would prefer a fluttering red cape to a Cessna trainer), but we might have snagged an even likelier candidate. One of the teachers' aides confided, ‘I have always, always, always wanted to learn to fly.’ Now, she just might do it, too.
It was a good day, even at this basic level. “Older kids would find the science and physics of flight interesting, as well as a look at the weather monitor and discussing more about what's involved in learning to fly.”
Amelia says she’d love to see these kids back in fifth or sixth grade, with a much more involved show-and-tell, maybe with air-evac choppers and Coast Guard planes, “but I think the little ones had something exciting to talk about at dinner tonight.”
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.