Local boy attended air camp
BELPRE – A 13-year-old Warren Middle School student hopes to again participate in the elite Air Camp this summer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
Alan Kirkpatrick of Belpre was one of 80 students nationwide selected to attend the camp held last July. He’s the son of J.E. and Melissa Kirkpatrick of Belpre and has always had an interest in science and engineering.
”I was too old for Camp Invention at Marietta College,” he said. ”My mother was looking online for camps I could go to and found Air Camp. I looked at the website and decided this was where I wanted to go.”
A deciding factor was the chance to fly a plane, he said.
“I wanted to fly,” Kirkpatrick said.
Air Camp is a five-day residential summer camp focusing on science, technology, engineering, math as it is applied to aviation and aeronautics, said Tom Severyn, executive director of Air Camp.
Participants are in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades and are housed at the University of Dayton where they are taken to various aviation- and aeronuatics-related venues throughout the Dayton area.
Students visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Carrilon Historic Park, Boonshoft Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB flying and base operations units, Air Force Research Labs, Wright State University, Sinclair Community College flight training and Wright Brother’s Airport where they pilot a light airplane.
”The students get to see first-hand aviation activities and discuss careers with those who are ‘doing it’ in hopes they will be inspired to continue studying STEM subjects,” Severyn said. ”Studies have shown that middle school is the time to focus students on following the STEM course of study to keep interest in high school and college. Numerous reports have shown that the nation needs additional STEM students to keep our nation vibrant and at the forefront of innovation and technology. Air Camp is our method of inspiring our youth to studies and careers in the STEM areas.”
Kirkpatrick has always had an interest in flying and flies remote-controlled model airplanes.
He joins his father in a tradition of watching “Tora Tora Tora,” a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor, on the anniversary of the event every Dec. 7. Kirkpatrick then began researching planes used in World War II, from their fire power to speed to manuverability.
Potential Air Camp candidates submit an application, answering many questions about their favorite subjects in school including questions about technology, science, math, engineering and more. Kirkpatrick also has a written recommendation from his sixth grade teacher, Sharon Westbrook.
”I had to write a 250-word essay about why I should go. Mine was 249,” he said. ”I wrote that I have always been into aviation, I have a flight simulator on my computer and I play it a lot.”
After Kirkpatrick was chosen, he began studying different types of aircraft and the dynamics of flight.
Kirkpatrick said the first day of Air Camp involved a scavenger hunt at Carrilon Historic Park where they had to find pieces of a model plane and assemble it. Other activities dealt with physics and flight.
Participants toured where the Wright Brothers held their experimental flights. They got a behind-the-scenes tour at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, including weather, ground control, tower and visiting the Air Force Research Laboratory where they saw the inside of a wind tunnel.
An AWACS E-2D Hawkeye had to make an emergency landing after suffering hydraulic failure, he said.
”We got to go watch it,” Kirkpatrick said. ”It did make a successful landing.”
At the Museum of Discovery, they saw a 3-D projection of the earth. They went to Sinclair Community College and did a flight ground school where they learned the basics of flight. They also spent time in flight simulators at the Air Force Research Labs.
”We got to see a UAV-remote controlled aircraft fly” Kirkpatrick said. ”We got to go to a spot to see what the camera was seeing as the plane was flying around and then it landed right in front of us.”
On the fifth day they flew a Cessna C-172. He took off and flew the plane at 120 knots for a half-hour.
”The simulators were harder than actual flying,” Kirkpatrick said. “When you are in an airplane, you can feel how the plane is reacting and all the different sounds. When you are in a simulator, all you see is the screen.”
He got a video of his landing, although his instructor landed the plane while he kept his hands on the controls.
”I didn’t want it to end,” Kirkpatrick said.
”As soon as we were back on the ground, I asked ‘Can I do it again?”’
Kirkpatrick has now officially logged a half-hour of flight time if he wants to go for his pilot’s license.
He enjoyed the comradery with the other participants and all of the activities. He is looking to apply to go again this summer and attend while the Dayton International Air Show is going on.
It is an experience he will never forget.
”How many 13-year-olds have been able to fly an airplane,” he asked. ”I got to do something that very few people get to do.”
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