By Henry M. Holden
When most people think of airports and airplanes, they usually think of pilots and flight attendants. Teterboro Airport (TEB), in Teterboro, N.J., has decided to change that perception where it will be most effective—in young students. On October 12, the airport welcomed about 400 seventh and eighth graders to tour the airport and its facilities, at its first Aviation Career Expo. The students and their teachers visited from Hasbrouck Heights, Little Ferry and Moonachie schools.
Since more colleges in New Jersey are introducing aviation curriculums, TEB decided to hold this event to bring pre-high school students onto the airport to spur their interest in an aviation career, and perhaps to study aviation in college. The students received some hands-on experience, and briefings by pilots, mechanics, emergency rescue responders and other airport personnel.
“We’ve wanted to do this for several years now, but with everything going on since 9/11, logistically we just couldn’t do it,” said Lanny Rider, airport manager. “We intend to do this every year. It will get bigger each year. We’ll be expanding this next year to six schools, and the following year to nine or more, now that we have the logistics worked out.”
One teacher said that many students have an interest in aviation, but don’t know where to begin.
“This trip offers them a chance to view the behind-the-scenes jobs, and I hope it will light a fire in some of them,” the teacher said.
On their trip, students discovered that it takes more than 1,200 workers are necessary to keep the airport humming.
“This day provides our students with a unique opportunity to learn about the careers available to them in the area of aviation,” said another teacher. “The students discovered that security is a very important job at an airport.”
Jet Aviation, one of the airport’s five fixed base operators, opened its doors for the day. The students were amazed to hear that the FBO has up to 120 arrivals a day, and more than 33,000 arrivals a year. The “wows” went up when their guide told the group that the employees pump more than 15 million gallons of fuel a year.
Since 9/11, security restrictions have kept people at a distance from the airplanes. Most of these students had never been close to airplanes; when they were on the ramp, many of the students stopped what they were doing to watch each time a jet took off. One group saw a real life emergency unfold before their eyes.
The group was visiting the emergency vehicle garage and talking to the firefighters, when an inbound corporate jet reported smoke in the cockpit. The crash trucks rolled, while the students and teachers watched anxiously. What caused the smoke is unknown, but the jet rolled safely to a stop, and no one was hurt.
The groups also toured the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame and its static displays, and heard interesting bits of the state’s aviation history. They learned that although the Wright brothers first flew 103 years ago, New Jersey aviation began 213 years ago, when a hot air balloon traveling from Pennsylvania landed in the state.
On seeing a helicopter land nearby, one student remarked, “Hey, that’s cool! I think it would be fun to fly one of those.” Another, walking past one of the giant snowplows on the ramp said, “My dad could sure use that.”
During lunch in the AIG hangar, judges announced the winners of the essay contest, “Aviation Makes the World Smaller.” Each student left with a bag of souvenirs, including a boxed set of four die-cast vintage airplanes.