Students see and touch aviation at DFW expo

By Alan Fleck

About 2,000 high school students from across North Texas attended the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s 14th annual Aviation Expo on Friday, Nov. 10. They had the opportunity to view aircraft and helicopters available for boarding on the tarmac at DFW. Following the airport session, the students headed south of the airport for a visit to the American Airlines CR Smith Museum, which tells the story of American Airlines, and provides displays and explanations about aviation principles.

David Magana, a senior manager of communications at the airport, said various partners have assisted with the aviation expo over the years, including long-time partner American Airlines, the FAA, many veterans, local law enforcement, the military, private aircraft companies, and the Commemorative Air Force. Many of the aircraft flown in for the expo were at the airport for the Sky Ball charity event, which the airport also hosted.

“Our Mission from the beginning has been to inspire the youth and tell them about careers that are available in the transportation and aviation industry,” Magana said. “We want to expose them to all the things they may not have considered from the transportation field.

“The idea from the start has been to set up aircraft, displays, flight simulators, and all kinds of things they can get their hands on. People from all the organizations, the military, the flight crews, including the whole V22 flight crew, Bell helicopters, and Hueys are here.

Magana says the mission of the expo is to expose the kids to all the possibilities they might have before them in the transportation career field.

“People have come back to us and said, you know I went to that DFW expo when I was a ninth grader , and now I am doing x in z city, and I attribute my interest as a result of that expo,” he said. “It’s fun to hear those stories.”

“Seeing the faces on these kids is great. Lots of selfies in front of helicopters. I saw one girl take her picture in front of jet engine. You never know what spark we might ignite.”

Magana also explained how the event came to occur at the same time as the annual Sky Ball, which raises funds to help veterans and their families.

“About four years ago, we had our Aviation Expo, and the Sky Ball event dates start to merge,” he said. “We synergized dates and had all the stuff come in at once.”

American Airlines not only provides space for the expo, but also access to its C.R. Smith Museum.

“American Airlines offered us the CR Smith museum, which is a museum for kids, and is right up the alley of how aviation works and how transportation works,” Magana said.

  1. W. Williams, a veteran, stood by patiently as wave after wave of high school students boarded the vintage Huey helicopter, which actually flew missions in Vietnam during 1967-1970. The chopper, now privately owned, has its interior walls and padding covered with signatures and dates of many soldiers from that era. This helicopter was recently used to fly Medal of Honor recipients from their hotel to the Sky Ball event.

M.J. Harris, Captain, United States Marine Corps, answered questions about the White Knight suit of armor standing next to the MV-22 Osprey he and his crew flew in the day before. A continuous stream of students boarded the Osprey via its lowered back ramp and exited via the front steps next to the cockpit.

Russ Coomley, an Army veteran and civilian pilot, explained the interior of the DC-3 aircraft had been restored to 1944 condition by locating spare parts around the country. Coomley said some students who came through the aircraft questioned whether it was flown in or arrived some other way.

Coomley would also like to these young adults choose an aviation career path.

“Our goal would be to see some of the students who come through pick up a career in aviation,” Coomley said. “Several years ago, a student came through and said he heard pilots for AA can make a good salary, and he asked if he could do that. I replied to the student that sure he could. Just stay in school, mind your manners, and read the books.”

Josh Woten, Instructor at Stingrays Training Squadron since 2009, spoke about the cockpit of his Navy T-44C King Air 90 two-engine training aircraft to several students from Ranchview High School in Irving. Woten said he can train Navy pilots for numerous types of aircraft including a C-130, a 737, and an Osprey using his plane.

Students had the chance to learn a lot about aviation and see aircraft on the open space of the DFW tarmac, but the C.R. Smith museum was packed with students, making it a challenge to check experience everything.

Several vendors had tables among the museum displays. Among them were Tarrant County College, U.S. Aviation, Envoy, ExpressJet, National Space Society, Airbus, and Boeing Field Services.

“We are receiving lots of inquiries from these students who are fascinated by airplanes,” Sheril Conger of Boeing Field Services said.

Niki Dozier and her fellow instructors from Grapevine Middle School brought about 300 students to the expo, and the students have been very excited.

“Some of our students want to be helicopter pilots and got to see this technology up close,” Dozier said.

“If someone wants to be a pilot, seeing this stuff in person really helps to encourage their dreams,” Abigail Penteia from Irving High School said.