Caleb Carter drew praise from his teacher while taking a turn practicing a landing on Scott City’s state-of-the-art flight simulator Friday during an aviation day camp for youth.
“Not too bad. Not too bad, Caleb,” Brian Vulgamore, chairman of Spencer Flight and Education Center, said.
After exiting the Redbird FMX, a full motion, FAA-certified flight simulator, a wide grin spread across Carter’s face.
“It was fun,” Carter, 12, said. “I just worried I was going to crash.”
Several dozen youths ages 10 and 18 took part in the aviation camp on Friday at Scott City’s Spencer Flight and Education Center. The kids broke into several small groups and visited different stations that included two ground schools, pre-flight inspection, airplane tours, Young Eagles rides, visiting with U.S. Air Force members, and turns on the Redbird FMX flight simulator.
Carter, who will be a seventh-grader this fall, said he’s been flying a few times with his grandfather, John Buehler, and said he might like to become a pilot someday.
“I’ve been up with my grandpa before, but he knows what he’s doing,” Carter said.
Carter said he was very excited about Friday’s day camp.
“I’m excited just to learn how to fly a plane, first of all,” he said. “It’s been in my family for awhile. My grandpa Norman, he’s passed away now, but he made like four or five planes. I think that would be scary. You have to have lots of confidence that it’s going to work right.”
The day camp also featured the appearance of two Air Force personnel, U.S. Air Force Academy instructor and A-10 pilot Maj. Matt Basler and his wife, KC-135 pilot Maj. Shelby Basler, who flew into Scott City to answer questions about flying and what it takes to become a military pilot.
“Flying is freedom. You get to go up there above the clouds. It’s awesome,” Matt Basler said.
But to be able to fly requires focus, training and hard work, he said, while urging kids to get good grades and stay out of trouble.
Basler said no one needs to be a “rock star” to join the Air Force Academy, the Air Force or just become a pilot. He noted that he earned a college degree in history from Kansas State University before joining the Air Force out of a desire to serve his country and an interest in flying.
“I grew up in a small Kansas town, and Shelby is the first generation of her family to go to college or be a pilot. You just need to work hard,” Matt Basler said.
Shelby Basler, a native of Los Angeles, said she is in the reserves now, which allows her to be the kind of mom she wants to be to their two sons, ages 4 and 7, and still be an aviator.
“It’s not something I really knew about in high school, but it’s a great fit for me now to balance family and work,” she said.
Some of the questions young people asked included how fast Basler has flown in his A-10 (upwards of 450 knots), and his favorite flying maneuver (the Split S).
Basler said the Split S involves rolling over upside down, pulling back on the stick until the plane turns itself back upright and coming in for a landing, something pilots tended to do frequently when approaching runways in Iraq to make them less of a target to bad guys with rockets.
“It was so much fun. I couldn’t believe they paid me for it,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, the SFEC sponsored a fly-in, free barbecue and a presentation by the Baslers titled, “Training Like You Fight: The Benefits of Training in Combat Aviation,” which shared stories and first-hand video footage of their experiences as pilots and instructors at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Matt Basler said there is a saying, “train like you fight,” which essentially means to train hard every day, not just running through the motions.
“There are certain things that we do in the Air Force that help us train better. Be prepared. Be flexible. Know your limitations,” he said. “The things we want to pass along to these guys are to know your business. Flying is great, it’s fantastic, but it’s inherently a dangerous job. It’s not something you need to be afraid of, but you need to take it seriously.”
The SFEC’s mission is to actively promote the safety and success of western Kansas pilots and passengers by providing a local venue for high-quality flight instruction in addition to various educational programs and resources for individuals of all ages. A 501(c)3 public charity, it houses the only full-motion flight simulator between Denver and Salina — a Redbird FMX — and hosts aviation related courses and programs for adults and youngsters.
The center was established in memory of Dylan, Amy, Chase and Ansley Spencer of Scott City, who were killed in a small plane crash near Topeka over Easter weekend 2011. More information can be found at www.spencerflightcenter.com.