Scott City pilot Brian Vulgamore gives Caleb Carter a few pointers as the youngster guides his aircraft to a landing in the flight simulator at the aviation youth camp held at the Scott City Airport last Friday.
Air Force pilot Major Matt Basler visits with youngsters during the aviation camp.
By Rod Haxton, editor
Caleb Carter didn’t need a day at the Scott City Aviation youth camp to know that he would someday like to become a pilot.
It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that flying is in the 13-year-old’s blood.
His great-grandfather, Norman Buehler, was an aviation pioneer in the region and pilots from throughout Western Kansas would attend the annual fly-in that he hosted on the family farm west of Scott City.
“My grandpa (Jon Buehler) inspired me to want to learn how to fly. Whenever he asks me if I want to fly, I always say, ‘Why not? It’s such a relaxing thing. I remember my first time in an airplane, my eyes were wide open. I loved every minute,” says Carter.
With that background, Carter has grown up around pilots and airplanes. Still, he wasn’t going to miss out on the first aviation camp held at the Spencer Flight and Education Center last Friday.
Youngsters were able to sit in the cockpit of the Redbird FMX full-motion flight simulator where they could experience flying and landing an aircraft, along with a number of educational stations at different sites around the airport.
Carter was a little apprehensive about his first experience in the simulator.
“I was confident about flying as long as we were in the air, but I’ve never landed an airplane and that’s what had me worried,” he admitted. “I was worried that I’d overcorrect and crash before getting to the runway.”
Future Scott City pilot Jordan Cramer is pretty serious about becoming a pilot.
“Learning how to fly is the favorite thing I really want to do. I’ve read and studied a lot about flying,” says the 12-year-old.
He learned quickly when given the opportunity to fly in the simulator.
“The first two times I crashed on my landing, but I got it on the third time,” he said with a grin. “I learned a lot.”
Goal of the Center
The day camp is the latest step in what organizers envisioned when the SFEC became a reality more than a year ago.
“Ever since we created the concept of the Spencer Flight and Education Center, this has been something we’ve wanted to do,” emphasizes board member Andy Hineman. “We’ve always had the flight component, with the simulator. But the education component has taken a little more time in order to put together what we really want to do.”
In order to develop the educational side with a youth camp in mind, board members approached Scott City Elementary School Principal Shawn Roberts who also created a morning educational program for students taking part in the school’s SCORE program. Hineman said that he and Brian Vulgamore, a fellow pilot and board member, felt fortunate to have Roberts lend her expertise to the camp.
“She took the ball and ran with it,” says Hineman. “We’re lucky that we had people who were able to put together lesson plans and block out the schedule in such a way that it provided a meaningful experience for the kids.”
Younger students in the SCORE program were involved in the morning session. Everyone had a chance to fly the simulator, make paper airplanes, see remote controlled airplanes and participate in a session where they learned how to communicate like a pilot.
The afternoon session of the aviation camp was open to youth from age 10-18. The youth were able to pilot the simulator, practice flying at desktop computer models and actually fly in an airplane, along with other activities.
There were 36 participants from Scott City, Leoti, Dighton, Garden City, Holcomb, Sublette and Smith Center, just to name a few towns. There were even a couple youngsters who were in Scott City visiting family for the summer who also enrolled in the program.
“Thirty-six was a great number for the first year, and that may be about where we want to keep it,” says Hineman. “It allowed for a lot more one-on-one time and it gave everyone an opportunity to experience the simulator. We may grow it some, but we don’t want to make it too big because we want to make sure everyone has a good experience.”
The evening program featured Major Matt Basler and his wife, Shelby, who are pilots with the U.S. Air Force. Basler shared his experiences as a combat pilot serving in Iraq and also offered insight into pilot safety and preparation.
“Major Basler and Dylan (Spencer) were very good friends while attending Kansas State (University),” says Hineman.
“Dylan always talked about Matt and you could sense that he had a lot of respect for what Matt does. And Matt was excited about the opportunity to contribute to the Spencer memorial and what we’re establishing here for the Spencer family.”
Ron Hall was in the unique position of seeing the benefits of the SFEC from two perspectives.
As a Boy Scout leader from Garden City, he brought four Boy Scouts who were able to complete “about 80 percent of the requirements” for their Boy Scout aviation badge.
As an employee with the Kansas Department of Transportation, he recognizes what the center means to aviation in Kansas. KDOT awarded the center a $108,000 grant through the Kansas Airport Improvement Program that was used to help purchase the flight simulator.
“There is a huge amount of territory between Wichita and Denver and this is the only flight simulator of this type available,” notes Hall. “It’s been fascinating to see how this community responded to a tragedy and turned it into something as terrific as this center.”
The hope of the aviation camp, and the SFEC board, is that this helps develop the next generation of pilots.
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly. This has taught me a lot and it makes me want to fly even more,” says Jackson Lewis, 12, Scott City. “I might take ground school and someday go for a private pilot’s license.”
While she’d never flown the simulator before, Kally Kough, 12, Scott City, was pretty pleased with her success as a pilot.
“I didn’t crash,” she pointed out.
The reason she enrolled in the camp was to learn more about flying.
“My father flies and I want to see if it’s something I’m interested in doing,” she says.
The aviation camp was successful in planting the seed for youngsters interested in aviation.
“There are some kids who are interested in taking ground school and a few who are already trying that,” noted Hineman.
He and other organizers would like to see the camp become an annual event.
If that happens, Carter will likely be among those returning. He already has plans to get his pilot’s license someday.
“I just wish my great-grandpa could have been around longer so I could learn even more,” he adds.
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