HYANNIS — A group of 20 adults and children slept overnight in the Barnstable Municipal Airport terminal on Friday, and it had nothing to do with flight delays or bad weather.
The airport played host to Cub Scout Pack 51 from Manomet, introducing 10 scouts, each accompanied by a parent, to all facets of airport operations and generating interest in aviation careers.
The program was the first of its kind for the airport, but aligns with a larger strategy and goal for the facility to become a community resource and center for aviation education.
“This fits in with what we want to do at the airport,” said airport manager Katie Servis. “Getting the community into the terminal and sparking the idea of an aviation career for young people.”
Patrick Logan, a den leader for the pack, approached the airport months ago with the idea for an overnight visit, based on the pack’s theme of transportation this year. Members of the pack are typically 5-10 years old.
“Katie (Servis) loved it,” Logan said. “It’s been fantastic. We’d do it again next weekend if they’d let us.”
The program developed for the Scouts was the brainchild of Matthew Elia, the airport’s assistant manager.
On Friday evening, the “flight plan” included an airfield tour, flying a Cape Air flight simulator and remote control aircraft activities. After a night safely tucked away in a self-contained TSA security area, the Scouts toured the air traffic control tower, learned about preflight inspection routines, toured a hangar and had a “touch-a-truck” experience with aviation and fire vehicles. There was even a surprise opportunity to take a flight on a Cape Air plane.
The program is easily reproducible, according to Servis and Elia, suggesting there may be similar events held at the airport in the future.
The event cost the airport “peanuts,” said Servis, who expressed appreciation to the airport staff, volunteers and airport tenants who assisted with the event.
“This was a big community effort,” Logan said. “It was great to see so many people work together.”
The aviation industry is experiencing a critical shortage of workers — from pilots to air traffic controllers to aircraft maintenance technicians — underscoring the need to introduce the career path to younger generations.
“To fix the shortage issues, we need to get more people interested in aviation,” Elia said.
Plans to locate a flight school at the airport are in the works to further that goal, according to Servis and Elia.
As part of its outreach to the community, the airport also works with local nonprofit organizations to host events at the terminal, which has accommodated up to 900 people for an event.
“This is our way to show (the airport) off,” Servis said. “This is a community airport and we want people to be comfortable here.”
Another goal of airport management is to attract businesses to locate here by highlighting Barnstable as a community where it is easy to make multimodal transportation connections.
“We need to let businesses know we have all of this here,” Servis said.
Duffy Health Center is hosting its 10th Annual Gala at the airport on Friday.
“I’m excited for our guests to be there — a lot of them, even if they’re local, have never been to the airport” said Sara Grambach, director of development and community relations for Duffy Health Center. “They really made a concerted effort to start partnering with organizations to hold events at the airport to showcase what they’re doing, and have done a great job.”
Grambach, a former Barnstable town councilor, echoed airport management saying it is important for younger audiences to learn how significant the airport is to the community.
The airport’s Cub Scout guests think so, as well.
Liam Holland, 10, said the flight simulator and remote control aircraft were his favorite activities, and he may consider a related career, perhaps in airport security.
“It was kind of awkward (sleeping in the terminal) because of the lights,” said Ryder Kneeland, 8. “But after this I’ll probably think about becoming a pilot.”