VALLEY TOWNSHIP >> A bunch of Boy Scouts had their heads in the clouds Friday, even with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Officials at Chester County G.O. Carlson Airport welcomed more 100 Boy Scouts to the airport Friday, allowing them to get up close and personal with how things work at the airport as a way of fulfilling requirements to earn their aviation merit badges. After they visited the airport, they had to discuss what they learned about the facility, the runways and the aircraft.
The program was part of the Airport’s celebration of National Aviation Day which is Sunday.
“We’ve been doing this for the past eight years,” said Gary Hudson, manager of the Chester County Airport. “Any young person in an organization pursuing a merit badge can visit to learn about aviation. It’s a way for the airport to give back. Every year there is a waiting list.”
Hudson said the event gives young people a chance to learn about aviation careers, from being a pilot or mechanic to that of an engineer designing planes.
“It gives the boys knowledge of pathways into aviation, whether going into aviation school or the military,” said Hudson.
On the ramp the scouts had a chance to inspect a variety of aircraft, including a 1943 World War II era two-seat Navy trainer and a crash fire rescue truck that protects Sikorsky helicopters and the airport.
“This gives them an idea of what a plane is about,” said pilot Dave Malchione of Kennett Square, who was giving the scouts a tour of a Hawker corporate jet. “The ones who are interested, maybe they’ll want to fly. That is how I got involved, I was interested in aircraft.”
“It’s a pretty good lifestyle,” said Malchione, who has been a pilot in Chester County for more than 40 years. “I learned to fly at New Garden Airport and became a corporate pilot in 1976.”
“If you were 18 in 1943 and in the military, you’d be training in a plane like this,” said Rich Palmer, director of maintenance at Bald Eagle Aviation as he rolled out the U.S. Navy trainer for the scouts to see. “Its cruising speed is pretty slow at 160 mph but it was used to teach pilots how to fly in formation.”
The plane is owned by Chester County lawyer Jim Beasey and was once used by the Japan air defense force until the 1970’s.
As you might imagine, the gaggle of Boy Scouts was impressed.
“It’s super cool,” said Matthew Worthington, 13, of Aston Troop 225. “My grandfather was an air force fighter pilot and I’m really enjoying this.”
“Can you fix anything on that plane?” asked Scout Scott Gordon of Troop 58 in Phoenixville, pointing to the Dassault Falcon 900 tri-engine corporate jet behind him.
“With the manual, yes,” said Chris Ingallinera, a mechanic at G.O. Carlson. “Part of being a mechanic is figuring out what needs to be done and how to do it properly. The name of the game is proper diagnosis.”
Ingallinera stressed to the scouts the importance of doing the job correctly, using the right tools.
“You don’t want to strip screws, when the next guy has to remove it he is going to curse you.” He also stressed to the youth the importance of knowing the latest service bulletins and notes when working on anything on the aircraft, as well as other protocols to maintain a high level of safety.
The day was more than just a tour of the hangers and ramp, Scouts also learned the technical aspects of flight, including an aeronautical chart plotting session using a compass as well as the basics of flight.
“It’s been awesome,” said James Pixley, 11, of Exton Troop 216. “I like the engineering of how everything works. The longer the wings, the easier it is to lift, but the height of the wings means more drag, you have to work harder to take off.”
Pixley said he enjoyed the talk by Ingallinera and the fact that the cost to replace one light on an aircraft was $3,000.
“I’ve enjoyed talking about how planes work and the precautions pilots take before a flight,” said Eagle Scout Philip Klaczak, 16, of Devon Troop 50, who was working on his 37th merit badge.
“It’s interesting how the airport and air traffic works,” said Logan Schott, 12, of Coatesville Troop 51, who said he’d like to be an aircraft engineer and design planes when he is older.
“It’s kind of cool,” said Logan Gailey, 14, of Aston Troop 225. “It might become my dream if I don’t become a soccer player.”