By Bob Shane
Aviation organizations are always looking for new avenues to raise the public awareness concerning the importance and opportunities aviation offers to the community. With that in mind, Joe Husband, president of the Arizona Airports Association, and Wes Waddle, aerospace education officer of the Civil Air Patrol Arizona wing, teamed up to bring a variety of aviation and aerospace groups to center court at Fiesta Mall in Mesa, on June 9. Participants representing diverse aviation resources included the Arizona Department of Transportation aeronautics division, the Arizona Airports Association, Falcon Field Airport of Mesa and the United States Air Force.
“Aviation activities touch the lives of nearly all persons in all parts of the state and contributes tens of billions of dollars in economic impact to Arizona,” Husband said.
Apparently, nobody had ever tested the concept to disseminate aeronautical information at Phoenix-area shopping malls. Husband contacted several malls, asking for permission to talk to their visitors and get them involved in aviation. When a mall finally agreed to allow Husband and his associates to set up displays, without charging a fee for the privilege, the event was a go.
Carole Glenn, education and outreach coordinator for ADOT’s aeronautics division, set up the department’s display and fielded questions. She was there to explain aeronautics and its contribution to ADOT.
“Most people don’t even know that ADOT has an aeronautics division,” she said. The balsa-wood airplanes passed out during the event were a big hit with kids.
“I’m here to let everyone know we’re still hiring,” said Staff Sgt. Abel Bracamonte, an Air Force recruiter. He talked to candidates for enlisted positions, touting an Air Force benefit that pays 100 percent of recruits’ college tuitions.
Jeffrey Tripp, airport projects supervisor at Falcon Field Airport, answered general aviation questions and specific questions about Falcon Field. The airport, in number of based aircraft, is one of the 10 largest airports in the U.S., with more than 850 aircraft based there. Tripp was surprised that most visitors didn’t know Mesa had two airports: Falcon Field and Williams Gateway Airport.
Waddle provided a CAP information booth. The CAP auxiliary of the Air Force is best known for its emergency services, with its air and ground teams performing 85 percent of inland search and rescue missions for the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Some of its high-profile searches included the search for John F. Kennedy Jr.’s airplane and the Air Force A-10 that crashed in the Colorado Rockies. Waddle wanted to inform visitors about the group’s cadet program, which provides young people, between 12 and 20 years of age, the opportunity to develop leadership skills through aviation. Cadets are also given the opportunity to learn to fly.
“Our mall presence proved to be a dynamic opportunity to reach out to the public,” Husband concluded at the end of the day. “It was very rewarding to see the delight in kid’s faces when they left with balsa airplanes.”
With Phoenix headed for record summer temperatures, Husband and Waddle look forward to setting up displays at other malls, where people head inside to escape from the heat.