Airmen help youth learn aviation at conference
By Senior Airman Amber Russell, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 11, 2012
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --
More than 80 volunteers from Joint Base Andrews, Md., Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C., and the Pentagon helped children from 19 area schools glimpse the dynamic world of aviation during the Air Traffic Control Association's 57th Annual Conference Exposition here Oct. 3.
This year's conference focused on the future of air traffic control, and the exhibit hall offered the students more than 100 exhibits from aviation-related companies and organizations and the opportunity to speak to military and civilian experts from many aspects of aviation.
One such expert was Maj. Jon-Michael Calhoun, a pilot with the 99th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
"If becoming a pilot is something you really want to do, you have to face and overcome any fears," said Calhoun. "When it comes to flying, you have to gauge your in-flight experiences to see if you can tolerate the effect flying has on you. More importantly, facing fears in math and science is a must."
After touring the exhibits, the students observed a high-school ceremonial drill competition, with opening ceremonies provided by the Naval Ceremonial Honor Guard.
The Oxon Hill High School Reserve Officer Training Corps drill team triumphed, and the team members won an opportunity to become astronauts and engineers at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Va., where they will partake in mission simulations, which are learning environments based on the practices NASA uses to prepare astronauts.
During lunch, aviation industry leaders gave interactive briefings. Bufkin Fairchild, FAA aviation safety inspector, discussed Isaac Newton's three laws of motion with the crowd of young adults. He invited participants to the stage to read slides, answered questions and demonstrated the effects of force and gravity.
As the day ended, many teachers said their students' futures in aviation were just beginning.
"Today my students had the chance to see practical applications for all the technology they've grown up with," said Janet Bondelid, North Point High School electronics teacher. "The exposure they get now will open the door to future possibilities and make them better informed to make solid decisions in college and their careers."
Federal Aviation Association officials hope to attract the best and brightest to lead the future of aviation, said Dr. Belinda Bender FAA program manager.
"This is why the Department of Transportation Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program continues to educate young minds in science, technology, engineering and math studies," Bender said. "We could not host this event without the organizational skills and physical support from our local airmen and government employees.
"These willing warriors and military patriots make this event happen flawlessly. They set the standard and walk the talk," Bender said. "Their mental equanimity coupled with their freshness of approach to our next generation goes unmatched."
Staff Sgt. Laurina Sousa, a 99th Airlift Squadron special air mission flight attendant from Andrews, organized the military chaperones who guided and inspired the students throughout event.
"I'm glad we could help youths learn about all the aspects of the aviation world and make them aware of all the opportunities out there," said Sousa.