News>Smithsonian celebrates annual 'Become A Pilot Day'
A C-17 Globemaster III of the 305th Air Mobility Wing is presented as a static display for Become a Pilot Day, in Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event held at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
Maj. Nathan McClure guides a team of Civil Air Patrol cadets in the inflation of a Civil-War era balloon near Chantilly, Va., June16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day at the National Air and Space Museum is an annual event informing children and students about aviation and aircraft. McClure is an Air Force fellow with the Department of Transportation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ashley Riedel)
A father guides his son back into the flight deck of a C-17 Globemaster III, near Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event held at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
1st Lt. David Bishop, answers questions about the controls of a C-17 Globemaster III to Nicholas Kendall, 10, at Become a Pilot Day near Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event at the National Air and Space Museum, intended to introduce children to careers in aviation. Bishop is a C-17 pilot with the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
Nicholas Kendall, 10, is astonished about the controls of a C-17 Globemaster III at Become a Pilot Day near Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event at the National Air and Space Museum, introducing children to careers in aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
Kendall Davis, 7, explores the flight deck of a C-17 Globemaster III, at Become a Pilot Day near Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event at the National Air and Space Museum, introducing children to careers in aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
1st Lt. David Bishop explains the heads-up display of a C-17 Globemaster III to Kiron Khashnobish, 12, at Become a Pilot Day near Chantilly, Va., June 16, 2012. Become a Pilot Day is an annual event at the National Air and Space Museum, introducing children to careers in aviation. Bishop is a C-17 pilot with the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel)
by Airman 1st Class Alexander W. Riedel
Air Force News Service
6/18/2012 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Officials at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum held the annual "Become a Pilot" family day June 16, in Chantilly, Va.
More than 45 aircraft were on display as the museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, including two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and a C-17 Globemaster III, which had its cargo bay and flight deck opened to the public.
In the C-17 and other aircraft, kids could climb behind the controls, ask questions to experienced pilots and aircrew and learn about what Capt. Anthony Bombaci, of the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., calls '"the best job in the Air Force."
"I really love flying this aircraft," said Bombaci of the C-17. "So I like to share some of the enjoyment I find in my job and hopefully motivate some of the kids (to pursue a career in aviation)."
After guiding a young visitor to the pilot's seat, Bombaci smiled. "I wanted this job since I was about his age," he said. "So anytime I get the opportunity to show somebody else what I do, that's awesome."
Nothing in the C-17, from the cargo bay to the flight deck, was was off-limits. But while Bombaci's head was on a constant swivel to prevent injuries to visitors and damage to his aircraft, he said he is not worried; his crew has their eyes on everything, while they guided the visitors and answered any inquiries.
"We get a lot of really good questions," said Bombaci. "It's a great chance to show people what we do."
Bombaci himself is a frequent visitor to the museum, he said, and could spend hours perusing the different aircraft.
"I'm like a little kid here," Bombaci said. "Even though I get to do this for a living, I am all-smiles myself, checking it all out."
His feelings were shared by his crew.
"Events such as this are one of my favorite things to do," said 1st Lt. David Bishop, the C-17's co-pilot.
"It's nice to see people get excited about what I do; it's one of the easiest things to talk about."
Bishop hoped that some of his enthusiasm for his profession may inspire future generations.
For Kiron Khashnobisch, 12, the event did just that.
"I liked the glass display," said Kiron, speaking of the C-17's heads-up display. "It has different colors and information, and it was really cool."
While Kiron is new to aviation, others his age are already veterans of the flightline: Cadets of the Virginia Civil Air Patrol, clad in battle dress uniforms, assisted with flight-line security for the parked aircraft.
"Today's events provide the cadets a good experience of working with aircraft," said CAP 2nd Lt. Iain Ronis, of the Leesburg Composite Squadron in Leesburg, Va. "What they get to experience at events like this really exposes them to a wide range of things that other kids typically may only read about -- here they get to go out to see, do, touch and feel aviation."
While the event hosted a wide variety of aircraft, including the U.S. president's VH-3D Sea King helicopter, better known by its call sign "Marine One," the C-17 was by far the biggest aircraft outside the museum's hangar.
"The C-17 is hands-down the winner," said Margy Natalie, the museum's docent program manager and event organizer. "Kids and parents love seeing and experiencing the aircraft. It's big and it's cool. The CAP cadets just stopped in awe when they saw it."
For Natalie, Become a Pilot Day is one of the best ways to get children interested in aviation and technology.
"A lot of people simply don't know what it takes to become a pilot," said Natalie. "With tighter security at airports, they also don't have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the aircraft and personnel, so we try to highlight and offer all types of aviation whether it's military or civilian -- we have everything."
Planning the event that hosts an expected crowd of more than 15,000 visitors, is a work of passion for Natalie, who is a pilot herself. "We're the National Air and Space museum, so we like airplanes -- I'm already thinking about next year," she said.
The museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
7/5/2012 5:29:11 PM ET Why do so many of these comments have to have such a negative spin to them This is a great event for kids and adults. While pilots are often seen as the golden boys of the AF who cares Are some of you so insecure about your lives and careers YOU feel the need to write snarky comments about this The comment about the kids being taught to write condescending emails to the AF Times is just plain stupid. That was one moron and he certainly does not represent the caliber of the USAF pilots. They are some of the hardest working smartest and most taxed members of our AF. You may know that if you took the time to talk to one instead of writing snooty comment about them. That being said instead of having CAP cadets hanging around the C-17 it may also have been beneficial to have the Flight Engineer Loadmasters andor Maintenance reps there to show all very important roles that keep these planes flying.
6/27/2012 9:28:45 AM ET I've worked on the flightline and dealt with some of the snarky comments that pilots dish out to the enlisted force and have felt the anger that I'm sure drove some of the comments on this page. But I'm also realistic enough to realize that flying aircraft is what the Air Force is known for. It's what were built around. It takes all of us to make it happen but it's that one mission that drove the train in the beginning and continues to be a vital part of what we do. So having a Pilot for a Day program should be seen as promoting the Air Force and not looked as as a reason to point fingers at the pilots themselves. For every snarky pilot out there you will find at least two who really see through the haze of their training and know that they wouldn't be up there if it weren't for the rest of us.
SMSgt S, Randolph
6/27/2012 8:35:14 AM ET Just don't provide the means for them to become pilots. Seriously, it would be tragic to keep open a 60-year-old Aero Club at the birthplace of aviation.Thanks Col. Gladneyhttpwww.aopa.orgaircraftarticles2012120523air-force-kicks-oldest-ga-club-off-base.html
6/27/2012 7:36:24 AM ET Isn't this special right in the shadow of USAF leadership closing the Wright-Patterson AFB Aero club. Seems a bit of irony that it's OK to gernerate a C17 for a one day dog and pony show with no real results but sitffle a club where REAL aviation learning and experinces were availble for all.
Msgt - Ret, In the USA
6/25/2012 9:09:09 PM ET Isn't that special. Kids get to do something that actually reflects POSITIVELY on the USAF. Something I truly support. But of course we had to limit it to Become a Pilot for a Day because that's ALL that the USAF does after all. Maybe we should have included Fly a Satellite for a Day or Missile Launch Officer for a Day or even gone crazy and had Reaper Driver for a Day. But we all know that would have caused too much trouble within Mother Air Force because then the decision of what junior uniform should be the youngsters be allowed to wear? It couldn't be a flight suit without the possibility of a Captain from Cannon AFB authoring yet ANOTHER letter to the Air Force Times. So if a potential recruit wants to enjoy this time honored tradition, he or she will now have to submit paperwork to see what uniform will be appropriate for the occasion. Flight suits only for the Pilot of the Day candidates and ABU's for the satellite and missile folks while it is Monday Blues for the Reape
R.E. Ally, Washington DC
6/25/2012 4:12:38 PM ET Where was the Fred to make kids stare in AWE?
double duce, US
6/25/2012 3:03:44 PM ET Were the kids taught to write condescending emails to AFTimes about the superiority a bag reflects? Were they issued a set of blues for the day so that they could put them in the closet and refuse to ever wear them? Lastly, were they given a little notebook of snarky things to say to enlisted people?
Hootie Hoo, Va
6/25/2012 10:51:20 AM ET Betcha the C-17 loadmaster felt really special. Why not a Become an Aviator Day to recognize all crewmen and generate interest in all aspects of flight. Not everyone will become a pilot. Funny how when we use the term Astronaut it does not mean you are the one piloting the spacecraft - assuming we still had manned spaceflight.
ROF, Wildfire CO
6/25/2012 9:28:44 AM ET Why don't they have Become a Navigator Day isn't that every little boy'sgirl's dream