There are many missions of the Great American Air Show. It provides an opportunity to display the great skill of the pilots who do the many tricks and feats of daring with their planes. It is also a great way to support our military. But most of all, it is a wonderful way to introduce kids to the world of aviation.
While the highlight of the day was the amazing flying skills of the many performers, capped off by the Blue Angels, there were many booths, activities, and static displays of various aircraft that brought visitors face-to-face with all things aviation. From a two-seater plane cockpit that kids could climb into and learn about from students and instructors from Middle Tennessee State University to a large transport plane.
Organizations like the Civil Air Patrol, the Navy, and the Coast Guard were present to share with kids and all other guests what it is like to be a flier. Representatives from the Blue Angels, the Viper flying team, and many others walked the grounds between flights taking selfies with kids, and talking about what they do. Local flight schools were also represented.
“We offer a 45-minute introductory flight,” said Sean Amos, owner of the Flying High Flight School, the newest on the Smyrna Airport grounds. “Anyone on one of these flights can go wherever they want, like fly over their home. With an experienced pilot by their side, an introductory customer gets a chance to fly the plane, too.”
Amos loves getting kids interested in aviation, both because it is a tangible way to teach kids about STEM, but also because there is a massive shortage of pilots.
“In the next decade,” said Amos, “there will be an opening for more than 600,000 jobs in the aviation industry.”
Another great way for kids to get introduced to flying is the Civil Air Patrol. According to Major Eric Coggin, the Civil Air Patrol’s three primary goals are aerospace education, developing youth through their cadet programs, and emergency services.
“As a member of the junior division of the Civil Air Patrol we learn about leadership, take orientation flights, take flight classes, learn about flight safety, and we can be a part of their color guard,” said junior air patrol member Victoria Teet.
Teet joined the Air Patrol because she wants to become a pilot and work as an aviator. She also enjoys telling other kids about what it is like to fly.
Performers like Patti Wagstaff, the only non-military female stunt flyer in the country, inspired all who watched. Others included the Geico Skytypers, Stan Tucker and Team Oracle, and the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs.
“I’ve been to a lot of air shows,” said Tom Zorlman, “but I am enjoying this one tremendously.”
More than 15,000 visited the Smyrna Airport over the two days of the event, not letting the sporadic rain showers dampen their fun.
“This year’s airshow was another great success,” said John Black, Executive Director of the Smyrna Airport. “In between a few passing showers, all of our world class performers were able to fly, and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were absolutely phenomenal. We are also happy to have Nissan as the presenting sponsor … and Second Harvest Food Bank as our charity partner. The weekend gave youth a rare opportunity to be up close and personal with aviation.”