Monday, April 22, 2019

Soar Into STEM Session Three: Flight Planning, Redbird Flight Simulator and Drones

By Carmelo Turdo
The third session of Soar Into STEM was held at Spirit of St. Louis Airport, and The Aero Experience was again on site to observe the morning session (the second week's activities were covered in our previous story). This week, the students met in the hangar across from Elite Aviation where flight simulator training services are provided. Returning as the leader for the day's session was Brooke Bennett, Education and Outreach Manager for Wings of Hope. The day's schedule included interaction with a number of guest facilitators leading practical, skill-building activities. The students seemed to enjoy working with a new group of aviation professionals along with their now familiar program mentors. 

Following the opening announcements, two guest activity leaders gave brief presentations about their aviation careers and experiences. First to speak was Phil Koch, a private pilot who volunteers to fly medical missions for Wings of Hope. Koch, a retired software industry consultant, has been flying nearly weekly for the Wings of Hope Medical Relief and Air Transport (MAT) Program. MAT was established in 2003 to provide access to life-saving health care within the Midwest to those who are unable to obtain or sustain transportation to specialty care facilities. This is accomplished using corporately-owned aircraft and volunteer pilots and medical staff. About 500 flights are provided annually in Wings of Hope aircraft or through the provision of commercial aircraft flights when practical. 

The next guest speaker was Natalie Kelley, a pilot and founder of flyGirl. Kelley founded flyGirl to inspire young women to enter and succeed in the aviation industry. According to current FAA statistics, only 7% of all pilots are women (4% of commercial airline pilots), and only 29% of all major aviation jobs are held by women. Natalie Kelley and the flyGirl organization provide pilot training scholarships, networking opportunities, public appearances at programs like Soar Into STEM and a mentoring community to help women achieve their aviation dreams. Funding for these programs is provided through donations and sales of flyGirl products through the Sporty's online store. 

Following these short presentations, the students rotated through group activities led by aviation professionals and assisted by their program mentors. One group went on a tour of the tower with Wings of Hope Director of Programs, Dr. Jessica Watson (not pictured). Another group learned new vocabulary words through discussion and word puzzles with mentors Kim Rumpsa and Satya Sunkavalli.

Another group worked with Wendy Erikson of Women and Drones. Erikson is host of the Women and Drones podcast and is an FAA Certified Remote Pilot. She may be better known in St. Louis as a former news anchor and journalist at KSDK news, but she is now an advocate for encouraging women to become drone pilots. She reviewed the uses of drones, from journalism to entertainment to search and rescue. Of course there was an opportunity for the students to fly one as well!

Another group worked with Phil Koch and Natalie Kelley at the flight planning station. They discussed essential concepts such as weight and balance, fuel consumption, routing and related items as they filled in the flight plan documents for a theoretical, but realistic, Wings of Hope flight.

Yet another group was getting flight time in the state-of-the-art Redbird MCX full-motion simulator. The students received expert coaching from John Keich of Alpha Flight Simulation as they experienced flight without leaving the ground (actually they were a little off the ground as the simulator pitched and rolled). Pilots can reserve flight instruction time on the Redbird simulator through Elite Aviation. It is valuable for logging time during foul weather days and for working through trouble spots with an instructor who can freeze the simulator at any time to review progress. 

The students had a chance to participate in each group activity mentioned above in preparation for next week's orientation flight day at Elite Aviation. We will report again next Saturday for the fourth and final week of this edition of Soar Into STEM. The Aero Experience thanks all who have worked to make this such a great STEM aviation program.

No comments: