Saturday, November 8th, AirSpace Minnesota and the Minnesota Association of Women in Aviation hosted an open house at the site of the future Aviation Learning Center (ALC) and The Learning Jet at KSTP, Holman Field.
Located at the campus formerly known as Wings Aviation, this will be the site of the ALC and The Learning Jet as a destination for students to learn more about flying, be able to see how their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills apply to aviation, and inspire them to continue into this field. When students visit the ALC, they will preflight a real Cirrus SR-22 aircraft, (which was graciously donated to the ALC by Dale Klapmeier, co-founder of Cirrus aircraft), file a flight plan from KSTP to Rochester (KRST), then will fly their plan on flight simulators with a partner while talking with an ATC controller to guide them along their way. Finally, they will debrief after the flight to discuss what they’ve learned.
The Learning Jet is a decommissioned FedEx Boeing 727 which was donated to MNAWA to be transformed into a learning tool where students can learn about multiple means of transportation, not limited just to flying. Students attending the STEM destination will also learn about the rich history Minnesota has in aviation, such as Jean Piccard and his innovations in ballooning (the Star Trek character Jean-Luc Piccard was named after our Jean!), Charles ‘Speed’ Holman, the man whom Holman Field was named after, and the fact that Amelia Earhart attended school for a time in St Paul. AirSpace Minnesota partners such as the MN Air Guard Museum (thanks for letting me check out your ejection seat!), NWA History Centre, MN Aviation Hall of Fame, and Minnesota Submarine League work together to ensure the rich history we have here in Minnesota is not forgotten but is passed on to future generations.
At the Open House, guests were invited to test out a flight simulator, similar to what learners will be able to see and use at the Aviation Learning Center. Cirrus also brought in a SR-22 aircraft, just like the one students will preflight when visiting the ALC. Special guests in attendance were Secretary of State Mark Richie, VP of Delta Airlines Mark Zarras, Astronaut and Sun Country Captain Curt Brown, Ballooning Pioneer Don Piccard (son of Jean and Jeanette, pioneers in the field as well), Captain Anne Simpson, one of three of the first women pilots for Northwest Airlines, Woody Fountain, first African American pilot for Northwest Airlines, Dr. John Olson of Sierra Nevada Corporation, Executive Director of MAC Jeff Hamiel, AirSpace Minnesota co-chair Mark Skarohlid, and Neil Brackin of Fargo Jet Center, and AirSpace Minnesota board member, led the program. A hot dog lunch was generously provided for everyone in attendance by the Fort Snelling Lion’s Club. AirSpace sold t-shirts and posters, which Don Piccard signed for guests.
Over a hundred people were on hand throughout the day to enjoy the guest speakers, including a special unscripted chat with Captains Anne Simpson and Woody Fountain about their experiences at Northwest Airlines as the first minorities to fly for the airline. They are pioneers in their field and still continue to be inspirational for us today. Also in attendance were representatives from Garmin, Thompson-Reuters, 3M, UTC Aerospace Systems, and Signature Flight Support, attending the event in support for the ALC because they also believe in the importance of educating our future generations.
Another special treat was Bill Jansen’s L39 which he flew in for a static display. This was a hit for those in attendance; a group gathered outside the hangar to see him depart despite the cold and wind during the afternoon.
Overall it was a great event–well attended by people who can further the inspiration that is the Aviation Leaning Center and The Learning Jet, and see them come to fruition. There are still a lot of funds to be raised, but with more awareness into the visions of these groups, these dreams can become reality!