Ejecting Students Into the Future

By Luke Schumacher | DFW Newsflash | November 2019

Carrollton-Farmers Branch—Students at McCoy Elementary School in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD received a hands-on experience learning about aerospace technology on Tuesday, Nov. 19.

“We are educating the children on the reason to continue their higher education and keep them motivated to stay in school,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Jerry Reid said. “By showing as they continue their education, students can become pilots. They can work on airplanes. It all requires additional training and very technical knowledge.”

“I have been asking for about a year if Jerry [and Chris Woodul] could bring the flight equipment and simulator,” Leslie Anne Aydelotte, McCoy’s LEAP 4 teacher, said. “The focus is for the kids to be able to experience the technology.”

The students learned about a flight simulator and restored ejector seats. Aviation enthusiast and collector Chris Woodul supplied the equipment.

“We thought it would be neat to give [students] some hands on opportunity to touch and see and get their minds [curious] about this,” Woodul said. “These are gifted and talented students with very curious minds.”

Woodul’s interest in ejector seats was sparked by his father.

“I got started because when I was a kid, there was a picture of my father sitting in an F-8 Crusader,” Woodul said. “He was sitting in this giant black thing with red flags all over it and these yellow handles bigger than he was. For some reason I was attracted to it.

“I began to draw and design them. When I was a kid, I thought of myself as an engineer and designer. I didn’t play football or do most of the normal things people did as a kid. My time was spent drawing, designing and trying to think like how a designer or engineer would solve problems using design.

“I didn’t have the equipment like I have now, but I read about it. I looked at every magazine on aerospace technology and every book you could imagine.”

Eventually, Woodul was able to start his collection.

“My cousin ended up getting an ejection seat, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” he said. “I bugged him about it, and when I turned 13 or 14, he gave it to me. I’ve probably had about 150 go through my hands since then, because I’ve found them all around the country.

“I’ve got about 100 ejector seats in my collection now and about 14 cockpits I’ve restored. I like to share them with people, because if you have it on your own and don’t share it, it’s no fun.”

Woodul used to have his collection displayed at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. While he was there, hundreds of different airmen, astronauts and other notable aerospace figureheads signed the chairs. One his most memorable signatures came from a six-year-old.

“The boy was an absolute genius,” Woodul said. “I sat with him and his mom. We were talking about reflectors and stealth design, and he would keep up. I saw myself in him except he is a lot more advanced than I was at his age. I had him sign it because he impressed me so much.”

Sharing his collections helps inspire other youngsters to reach greater heights.

“A lot of people never get the chance to get this close or sit in something like this. This is a way for people to get their hands on, touch it, and even smell. It smells like airplane in the simulator.

“I want to inspire [students.] They don’t have to grow up to be pilots or engineers or mechanics or anything like that,” he said.