By Reggie Paulk
Originally scheduled to visit with students of the Denver and Aurora public schools during his around-the-world flight in April, Barrington Irving finally got the chance to do so Oct. 8 and 9 as part of his Experience Aviation Tour, hosted by Shades of Blue and Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.
Although he may not have been attempting a record, Irving’s arrival at Hangar 1 was electrifying nonetheless. As nearly 500 students from Aurora Public Schools stood in the gaping doorway of the hangar, the distinctive thwop-thwop of helicopter blades signaled his arrival. Their enthusiasm grew as the JetRanger swooped into view and landed only yards away from the throng of screaming youth. Irving stepped out of the helicopter, blades still spinning, and ran toward the students, who were jumping up and down with delight.
Officially the youngest person and first of African decent to fly around the world solo, Irving isn’t taking a break. He’s constantly shuttling back and forth between his home in Miami and locations across the U.S. in order to bring his message of aviation to the nation’s youth. Irving is providing the spark needed to ignite the flame of passion for aviation.
His visit coincided with the museum’s kickoff of its new Special Outreach with Aviation Resources program. After Irving’s departure, the museum has programs designed to help foster those newly ignited flames.
“Our goal with SOAR is to be able to take the programs we have here at the museum to students and schools that might not otherwise have access to our programs,” said Darci Wert, the museum’s director of education.
The museum offers a variety of programs.
“We have a tour program, which can range from a basic tour of the museum to building balsa wood planes, in order to learn about the different parts of an airplane, center of gravity and the four forces of flight,” says Wert. “Our Project Pilot program is a half-day program consisting of a classroom session followed by a simulator session. We really want to take it to schools, or to bring kids to the museum, using our SOAR dollars.”
The classroom session covers basic flight planning and navigation techniques. Students work with aeronautical charts, performing time, speed and distance calculations, in addition to fuel calculations.
“After planning their trip, we take them to our simulator lab and they fly it,” Wert said. “After doing their math, students immediately see the ramifications of their calculations while flying the simulator. It allows a real-world experience of math.”
Before Irving’s arrival, three organizations received awards for their continuing support of the museum and its programs. Jeppesen Sanderson and the Daniels Fund both sponsored Irving’s visit to Denver. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc., which has been instrumental in kicking off the museum’s SOAR program, contributed $25,000 specifically for initial funding of the program. They received an award for their support, which was accepting by Noel Takayama, general manager of the company’s aircraft product support division, which provides support for more than 300 Mitsubishi MU-2 airplanes in North America.
“As we advance through the 21st century, aviation needs and expertise are becoming more crucial, and we must step up efforts to meet those needs with properly trained professionals,” Takayama said. “With that in mind, MHIA is supporting SOAR and the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum to build excitement in aviation as a profession.”
After Irving spoke, the students broke into groups, allowing the opportunity to meet with and speak to him. A Wings Museum volunteer, a Shades of Blue member or an Air
Force Academy cadet then guided each group through various activities and a tour of the museum. The groups took turns climbing into the museum’s airplanes, flying the simulators or asking questions of their mentors.
During the two-day event, more than 600 children were exposed to the wonderful world of aviation. Thanks to the efforts of people like Irving, and the dedicated volunteers of Wings Over the Rockies and Shades of Blue, those children now have a new set of career paths from which to choose.
For more information about Barrington Irving’s Experience Aviation, visit [http://www.experienceaviation.org]. For information about Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and Shades of Blue, visit [http://www.wingsmuseum.org] and [http://www.ourshadesofblue.org].