Children lined up to ride on a homebuilt hovercraft, flip the controls inside the cockpit of a Piper Apache and watch their model airplanes soar through the sky this past week during the Aviation 101 camp.
The camp is being held by the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum for children ages 12 to 15.
Twelve children participated in this year’s camp, which started Monday and ends Saturday.
The camp covers the basics of flight, weather, terminology, flight planning, aircraft preflight inspection, and careers in aviation, said Norm Walker, museum interim curator and camp instructor.
There are also visits to airport agencies that support flight operations, such as the control tower, terminal, fire station and one of the fixed-base operations at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
The camp ends with a flight around the Tyler area Saturday morning.
Lou Thomas, camp instructor, said he’ll make four trips in his airplane, taking three children at a time.
“That’s usually the kicker,” he said. “Either they’ll really like it or they won’t. Most of them usually like it.”
Thomas has been flying for more than 50 years. He said his interest in flying came from his stepfather, who was in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
“I grew up around bases, and I always liked airplanes,” he said.
Thomas has volunteered for the workshop for three years.
Walker said he thought the camp was a great volunteer opportunity after a lifetime interest in aviation.
Growing up on a dirt farm in Louisiana, Walker said he watched airplanes fly over the farm and dreamed of flying some day.
“As soon as I was able to get into the Air Force, that’s what I did,” he said.
Walker spent 25 years in the Air Force and retired as a colonel.
He said it’s gratifying to expose children to aviation through the camp.
“You never know when you’re going to spark the interest in youngsters,” he said. “Every now and then, you see one who really catches the spirit of it and wants to pursue a career in aviation.”
After riding the hovercraft, campers experimented with red, white and blue model airplanes they made from kits the day before.
Some raced their planes against each other.
Most of the planes flew up and came crashing down on the pavement within seconds.
“Crash and burn,” one child yelled.
“Have you seen my rudder? My rudder got smashed,” another child asked, holding a model airplane that broke in half.
Walker said the activity is designed to reinforce what they learn in the classroom, such as what makes the airplanes fly and how they are controlled.
Clay Brown, 12, participated in the camp two years ago, and because he enjoyed it so much, he decided to do it again.
“I’m interested in everything about planes,” he said. “I like everything from the design to what they can do.”
Brown said he hopes to join the Air Force or be an aerial firefighter.
Rachel Holmes, 12, said she participated in the camp because she also wants to be in the Air Force. She said her family has a military background.
“I like going to the airport and looking at things behind the scene,” she said.
She’s looking forward to experiencing the museum’s flight simulator.
Katie Bellefeville, 12, said although she doesn’t want to be a pilot; she’s interested in their job duties.
“At airports you see all these people walking around, and you’re not too sure about what their job is, but now I know what they do,” she said.
Miss Bellefeville said her favorite part of the camp so far was seeing the equipment inside an Air 1 emergency response helicopter.
Travis Caudle, 11, said he’s a big fan of World War II aviation and attended the camp as an opportunity to learn about the airplanes and people who flew them during the war.
He aspires to be a pilot and said he likes how the camp is hands on and gives an in-depth look on flying.
“It seems like it would be really fun and most of the people I’ve met say it’s unlike anything they’ve ever done,” he said. “In their own words, it’s like touching the face of God.”