Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Girls With Wings Aviation Inspiration Day 2012 pt 3

CAF- MN Volunteer Donald
I hope to wrap up about Aviation Inspiration Day soon, but there's just so much to talk about! Held on May 26th in S. St. Paul, MN, the morning dawned with a glimmer of sunshine. We'd been anxiously watching the weather forecast for days vacillating between isolated and scattered thundershowers, but we held out hope that we would get lucky. We got there early, setting up the signage and the exhibitor tables and the Girls With Wings Presentation materials, in the midst of a media frenzy coordinated by Dave Sniadak of Axiom Marketing.

We were incredibly fortunate to have a KMSP-TV reporter broadcasting LIVE from the airport the morning of the event. We had four spots between 7 and 9 am, which you know was the prime time to grab the people when they were wondering what to do that day. My brother, standing at the far left, even brought his three boys along for the activities. We really wanted to stress that Aviation Inspiration Day was for the entire family - that means boys, too - and a segment was dedicated to talking about the availability of Young Eagle flights and that they were intended for all attendees aged 8-17. My nephew Peyton got his split second of fame when he responded "Yup" to the question, "are you excited about the prospect of getting a flight in this airplane today?"

Alas, about the time that I went inside to start giving the first in the series of Girls With Wings presentations, the weather turned foul. I mean really foul. We had a glider outside that got assembled, and then taken apart. Put together, taken apart. The MN State Patrol Helicopter fly-in was canceled. The Commemorative Air Force - MN Wing North American B-25 "Miss Mitchell" Flight: nixed. Tours of the CAF Museum involved a walk outside in what was at times nearly a torrential downpour. Our cookout, funded by Wipaire, manufacturer of Airplane Floats, was replaced by a massive order of pizzas. Sadly, only a dozen kids received their Young Eagle Flights during periods of relative calm. Even more unfortunate was the damage done to the volunteers' airplanes during a period of quarter sized hail.

Having said all that, I would still call the day a rousing success. We had three iterations of the GWW presentation and visits throughout the day from KARE-11 news which did a segment on their afternoon show. The Minneapolis Star Tribune featured the event in Face Time.  And a wonderful article was published in the St. Paul Newspaper. In fact, despite the horrible weather, I would peg attendance to have been the same as last year when Mother Nature was a bit more supportive of our efforts. I daresay we would have been overwhelmed had not so many people chosen to stay away because of the storm. Our Young Eagle pilots, Mike and Joel, are now left with the task of figuring out how to schedule several dozen more kids with their flights sometime over the next few months.

View the Panaroma
This year I sent out a survey to everyone who left their email address with us. Overall, feedback was positive other than the complaints because of the rain. Because of this, people felt the terminal got a little crowded and disappointed that activities were consequently scaled down. To give you an idea of the format, Ed Fink of Big Eye in the Sky provided a 360 degree panorama during a slower time. In it, I have just finished a session and am signing the girls' "Pilot Certificates." Note the dark grey sky out of the picture window - this still early in the day!

Most who responded to the survey rated it some level of "better than expected," with at least one person echoing my sentiment that the event would be improved by having "Women Pilots flying the Girls for Young Eagles." I really did try to contact female pilots in the area to provide flights. This is not to take away from Mike and Joel - but I just wasn't able to get women pilots to join them. I had the use of an airplane, generously donated by Bill Tischer, but other than the times I was in the presentation, you guessed, it - bad weather. People who ventured to the CAF Museum raved about the tour and the volunteers who gave them. Among the many activities, we had several WWII re-enactors, Rosie the Riveter was a huge hit! And the Civil Air Patrol was on hand to let people know of the services they provide to the community - several folks noted their intent to join.

Great response as usual to the presentation, including the following comments:

Yes, my daughter and niece, enjoyed the presentation very much, until my daughter found out KARE 11 was there. She said she put up her hood...which is EXACTLY why I thought your presentation was wonderful. At 9 years old, she already needs more opportunity to build her confidence!

The youngest granddaughter spent the next afternoon going through the hand outs. (7 years). You impressed the oldest with the number of women pilots. Sound positive from both.

They loved it last year so much they had to come back this year. They really wanted to do the Young Eagles ride, but because of the rain were not able to. They thought it was great.

The majority felt it was better or much better than similar events:

We felt you went above & beyond our expectations. Everyone was very helpful and willing to answer all of our questions to satisfy our curiosity about everything.

In answer to the question Were the children enthusiastic before the event? Were they more or less enthusiastic after the event? Everyone said MORE. 

she thought it would be boring, but she loved sitting in the aircraft and visiting the museum. She thought it was really cool and asked if I could buy her a plane. She was sad that we got rained out, but was excited that she would have an opportunity later this summer.

She really wants to get her pilots license now.
More enthusiastic after the event, now they are really looking forward to a flight. They loved being able to climb inside the Miss Mitchell. I was actually surprised how long their attention span was, for checking out all the planes in the "museum". There was one younger volunteer hanging out by the miss mitchell, he was talking to the kids, giving them bits and pieces of information. I think it's a special talent to get the right combination of tour guides to children, when trying to educate the kids on the planes, keeping their attention, and just letting them explore on their own.
Lunchtime Panel of Speakers

They liked the training Linda gave and were excited about have some more speakers at the noon time.

My daughter was looking forward to the flying but with the change in weather

Very interested in Civil Air Patrol. Originally the girls had planned to go to Mall Of America so they were a big apprehensive when they had to change plans.

C/1st Lt Valerie Kolyadenko and
C/Amn Jessica J Erskine

He loved the B-25 and the thought that people flew that exact plane into real battles.

As you can imagine, planning, organizing and conducting this event was no small feat.

All was good. I liked that we were greeted when we came in, and given a schedule and summary.

Great facility, easy to find, wonderful people. Was blown away by how good a job people did.

What would prevent or encourage you to attend this event next year? [Many people lamented the fact the event was "poorly advertised." We did all we can getting on the news and several volunteers spent hours emailing every news source we could think of to get the word out. Alas, we are nonprofits and have no budget for paid ads!]

We only happened to catch the information on Ch 9. If we hadn't been watching we would have missed out on this amazing opportunity. You have given us an invaluable gift of confidence in her ability to accomplish what was previously only a dream.

We absolutely will attend next year, with some more girls in the family who will want to attend, after hearing about our experience. You really had a nice, well rounded presentation and unique opportunity for our girls. Thank you.

We would have missed it if not for my grandmother watching the news. A flight demonstration or show would have been great for our boys who couldn't fly. Fantastic idea though! Looking forward to next year!

My daughter wants to go next year and I look forward to taking her. Thanks and good luck!

And that concludes our recap of Aviation Inspiration Day. It was another amazing event and I cannot thank everyone enough for their support. Again, if you'd be interested in coordinating a similar event at your airport, please send me an email.

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