Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come fly with me...

...let's fly, let's fly away!  Today was Aviation Awareness Day at University Park Airport, put on by the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.  Chris and I arrived around 13:30 Zulu at the airport to find overcast skies, a temperature of 20º C, visibility of 5 miles, and a 600' ceiling.  This was probably going to be bad news for the children 8-17 who were anticipating airplane rides and it was definitely bad news for me, since I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  DOH!  I needed a hoodie!

Upon arrival at the general aviation terminal at University Park, we were directed onto the tarmac by members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  This was Scooby's first foray onto an airport tarmac and we drove with our four-ways on to our parking space as directed.  The young man from CAP that directed us to our parking space had me in a fit of giggles.  I know he was just doing his job, but he was probably 10, maybe 12 and still very small for his age.  He used two HUGE bright orange light sticks to direct us to our space.  I swear the light sticks were as long as half his height.  It's definitely one of those "you had to be there" moments, but boy was it funny to see.

Anyway...the first building we visited was one of the larger hangars on the property.  Inside was a Dassault-Breguet Falcon 50 - a corporate jet belonging to Hickingbotham Investments, Inc. out of Little Rock, AR.  

Also inside was a 2003 Cirrus SR22 - a single-engine, four-seater.  

They were also serving breakfast in this hangar.  $7 for adults, $3 for children and by the smell of things, the menu included pancakes.  We opted to skip breakfast and continue with our aviation appreciation.

We walked out onto the tarmac where there were at least 20 aircraft on display, many with their owners nearby who were eager to chat with visitors and answer questions.  The first few rows of aircraft were your standard, "normal" small aircraft - Cessnas, Beechcrafts, and Cirruses.  While we were looking at these planes, two US Airways planes landed - one De Havilland Dash 8 and one Canadair Regional Jet 200.  Good news for my mom...we're flying CRJs to and from Halifax...not the Dash prop plane!

Here are a few pictures of the "normal" small aircraft that were on display:

The next row of aircraft was all experimental aircraft.  Sure, the Cessnas, etc. were cool, but I know that experimental aircraft are really Chris' interest.  You build it yourself, you maintain it yourself, most of them take regular automotive fuel.  Someday, my dear... 

Chris' other two-wheeled passion.
(Yeah, yeah...I know there's a tiny third wheel in the back.)

The last row of aircraft on the lower tarmac consisted of three gliders and one hang glider.  I didn't snap any pictures of the gliders because I was too busy listening to one of the glider pilots talk about flying them and because I ran into a co-worker and her family and was chatting with her.  

We made our way from the lower tarmac to the tarmac just outside of the general aviation terminal where more aircraft and some airport equipment was on display.

It's a bad day when these trucks meet you on the runway.

Geisinger's LifeFlight Helicopter

In all honesty, this is as intimate as I ever want to get with this helicopter!
When we went into the first hangar - where they were serving breakfast - one of the volunteers told us that there was the possibility of tours of the new control tour at the airport, which becomes operational this Thursday, September 1st.  We decided to go into the general aviation terminal to check it out and see what we could find out about these alleged tower tours.  

I see lots of people up there...there MUST be tours!

At the information desk in the general aviation terminal, we found out that YES they were doing tours of the new control tower and that all we needed to do was go outside and wait to be picked up and shuttled over.

Waiting to be picked up and shuttled over to the tower.
(He rarely smiles!  But he's still ALL MINE, LOL!)

The airport's latest piece of snow and debris removal equipment. 
It's a BEAST!

University Park Airport's new control tower - coming online September 1st.
We were met at the gate by Richard Casey, one of six air traffic controllers (ATC) who have relocated to State College to man (and I mean that literally...they're all guys) the new control tower.  Casey is a retired FAA ATC, now working through a contractor (Midwest Air Traffic Control).  He worked at Philadelphia International Airport for 28 years.  Not surprisingly, he likes living in Happy Valley much, much better!

After a short elevator ride up to the 5th floor, we walked up three "turning" staircases to arrive in the control tower.  On a clear day, the view must be simply stunning.  Yet even today, the view was amazing.

Looking down on the airport's main terminal.

It's tough to tell here, but we could see Beaver Stadium from the control tower.

Richard explains how the control tower will operate.

Chris took a seat and listened intently.

Flight "strips" tell the ATCs all the relevant flight data for incoming and outgoing aircraft.

While we were in the control tower, a Delta CRJ200 landed from Detroit.  

On our way to the airport this morning, we both joked that our expectations for "Aviation Awareness Day" were quite low.  Things here in Centre County often wind up being less-than-spectacular due to size, scope, or sophistication.  But Aviation Awareness Day did not disappoint!  This was the 3rd annual AAD and we overheard that it has gotten bigger, better, and more heavily attended each year.  Based on our experience today, we will be back in 2012!  It was a great morning adventure.

1 comment:

  1. How fun... kids would have gotten a kick out of this. Will have to keep my eye out for it next year!