Since 2015 Heartland Aerospace Experience Inc. (HAE) has been working to create a mobile classroom touting the benefits and vital importance of the aerospace and aviation industry. This week the nonprofit was approved for museum status by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), which is a huge step toward that lofty goal.

Since 2015 Heartland Aerospace Experience Inc. (HAE) has been working to create a mobile classroom touting the benefits and vital importance of the aerospace and aviation industry. This week the nonprofit was approved for museum status by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), which is a huge step toward that lofty goal. Now HAE will not only have easier access to museum items for display, but it can now seek out and acquire Federal surplus property — at less cost — as it constructs its dream of an aerospace classroom on wheels.

Bill Beck, president of the HAE board of directors, said the approval has opened the door to a tremendous opportunity for the nonprofit.

“This is a giant step-up for HAE, as it allows us to purchase items like other aviation museums do,” he said.  “We really are on the map of established museums now.”

Federal GSA Office

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), among other things, sells property to other federal agencies and to the public.

Now that HAE has achieved museum status, the group is eligible to seek and acquire items through the Federal Surplus Property Program — a process that took more than a year and a half to get approval, he said.

“It puts us on the same footing as other museums,” he said. It also will allow HAE to get items on loan or gifts of artifacts from other museums.

“And we can seek out Federal surplus items that can help us build our mobile unit or add to our museum,” Beck said.

Having access to Federal surplus items can make HAE's dream of constructing its mobile classroom much cheaper and quicker, Beck said.

“We would be paying pennies on-the-dollar for equipment or parts that can help us build a trailer,” Beck said. Or refurbish a trailer that can be modified, he said.

Classroom project

HAE's ultimate mission is to propel aviation education to a whole new level. A long-term goal is to construct a classroom centered around the aerospace industry. Perhaps what’s more extraordinary is that their dream endeavor –– though mobile –– doesn’t sport wings at all.

“The mission of 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, trade shows, malls, fairs, air shows, conventions or any other locations of request.

The expected reach conservatively is expected to be at least 50,000 students and visitors per year.

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

“We are becoming the headhunters that can fill the pipeline with future career members of the aerospace industry,” he said.

It's a project that is desperately needed, Beck said.

“The industry is so short-handed; we are in a critical crisis in sustaining aerospace and aviation services and products,” he said. “There are more people retiring than there are entering into these fields.”

New trailer specs

HAE has already designed what its mobile classroom would ultimately look like and feature.

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.

Beck said once the many thousands of dollars in needed funds are secured, it would likely take about 4-6 months to build a brand new trailer. Multiple trailers are planned down the line.

Museum

Beck said HAE's museum exhibit at Shawnee Regional Airport, though small, is interesting and has received some positive attention — and many comments from a diverse audience during the past year.

Set up in the local airport terminal, HAE has plans to add to the display.

“Right now, we are working on getting a display case built that can hold a life-size mannequin that will be dressed in a paratrooper uniform,” he said.

HAE has a WWII parachute that it wants to display on the model, he said. The nonprofit is waiting on a pricing quote to build the six-and-a-half-foot tall plexiglass case on a base — as well as adequate funds to pay for it.

Donate

HAE is a not-for-profit corporation. Contributions of all kinds — including funds, artifacts and time — are welcome for the project, Beck said.

“We also encourage aerospace-interested individuals to look into joining our board,” he said.

Beck said to make a donation, visit the nonprofit's website at heartlandaeronauticalexperience.org, send gifts or communication via Bill Beck, HAE President, P.O. Box 888 McLoud OK 74851-0888, or drop by Shawnee Regional Airport, where HAE has a mail slot.