A group of men who can’t keep their feet on the ground have joined forces to propel aviation education to a whole new level. Perhaps what’s more extraordinary is that their new endeavor –– though mobile –– won’t sport wings at all.

Note: An in-depth look at how the recently formed group called Heartland Aeronautics Experience intends to educate, promote and encourage the state’s youth toward aviation career opportunities –– and it all starts with Shawnee.

A group of men who can’t keep their feet on the ground have joined forces to propel aviation education to a whole new level.

Perhaps what’s more extraordinary is that their new endeavor –– though mobile –– won’t sport wings at all.

“The mission of Heartland Aerospace Experience Inc. (HAE), is to oversee the funding, design, construction and management of a mobile air traffic control tower trailer classroom for the purpose of educating and motivating youth toward aviation career opportunities,” Bill Beck, president of the board of directors of HAE, said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that it has been especially unsuccessful in the recruitment of women and minorities.

Beck said the mobile classroom can easily reach minorities, women and handicapped individuals who are traditionally under-represented in the aviation field, since it will be available to everyone in many various ways in different venues.

“We believe that this is a creative and positive approach for introducing our targeted populations to the wonderful world of aviation. Hopefully this also will interest younger students to pursue the STEM educational studies,” Beck said.

The trailer will be used as a year-round instructional classroom for elementary through 12-grade, public or private schools, colleges, corporations, tradeshows, malls, fairs, air shows, conventions or any other locations of request.

Beck said HAE hopes to start out by reaching the local community first, and then branch out to the state and beyond.

With streams of promise letters already coming in, HAE has Shawnee, Tecumseh and Moore school systems on board. Beck also has spoken with Bethel, Norman, Crooked Oak, Harrah and Mid-Del schools. He said he is encouraged by the reception he has gotten.

Marc Moore, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools, said, “I think it’s a good project. It’s able to bring some hands-on experience –– kids really enjoy that –– it’s also great for career exploration.”

“Our school system already has a number of students who eagerly await the one-day Youth Aviation Adventure held in Shawnee each spring,” Jerry Johnson, superintendent of Bethel Public Schools said. “We can readily see where the HAE could greatly enhance the learning experiences of our students who are already involved in our STEM (Space, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. The practical applications available to our student body would be almost endless.”

Johnson said, “We would ask those entities which could assist HAE in making this project come to fruition to please do so with great haste. Every year that it takes for this project to become a reality is another year that we will lose a class of students to graduation and their opportunity to recognize the many positives of the HAE will be lost.”

Vision Bank is among some Shawnee banks serving as a collection sites for the fundraiser.

Sue Nelson, sales officer at Vision, said, “I remember going to Colorado as a kid and visiting my cousin who worked in a control tower there. It was so exciting. What a wonderful thing we could do for the youth in Pottawatomie County with a project like this.”

She said, “It’s a big undertaking. There’s a lot of teamwork that has to go into a fundraising effort like this, but what a great way to educate our kids about aviation.”

Beck said, “Once we have the funds, it’ll likely take about 4-6 months to build the trailer. We hope to be road-ready by Fall 2016 or Spring 2017.”


Trailer specs

The ascending and descending control tower section will occupy half of a 56-foot trailer, equipped with an operational ground-to-air-to-ground Aviation Communications radio, an ADACEL traffic control simulator, a flight-line driving simulator, as well as a real-time weather radar scope.

The roof will have exposable skylights. The control tower will exit out onto the lower roof, which will serve as an observation deck.

The lower section is designated as a classroom, which will have a 14-foot by 5-foot by 7-foot slide-out structure that will house a 5-foot by 10-foot scaled airport model complete with aircraft, ground equipment, people, structures, lighting, taxiways and a landing system.

The model will use recorded audio simulated radio transmissions and communications, highlighted by flashing lights at the appropriate equipment to illustrate when, where and how equipment is used.

The front nose of the trailer will house a ONE-G fixed-wing flight simulator and a helicopter simulator.

“Flight and ATC simulators may be scheduled, with reasonable fees, for the training of flight students who can practice ATC communications in a safer, less expensive environment,” Beck said.

For more information about Youth Aviation Adventure, visit shawneeairport.com.

HAE is a not-for-profit corporation.

Beck said Shawnee Community Foundation will be used to collect grants or donations received for the project.

To make a donation, some Shawnee banks are acting as collection sites, or donate online by visiting networkforgood.org and searching Shawnee Community Foundation.


Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.