PIKEVILLE — Aviation Camp students at the Pikeville Pike County Regional Airport recently spent two days learning Aeronautics, Navigation, and how to operate an aircraft. Yes, how to fly.
Instructors taught thirty-seven local students how an airplane’s wings provide lift and how its control surfaces enable it to defy gravity. In another classroom, a group was learning principles of navigation and how to read and understand aviation charts and cockpit instruments. In a third classroom, students were allowed to take virtual flights on simulators provided by the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. Using these sophisticated flight simulators, they could see very realistic views of airports they selected. They could see runways and surrounding countryside, including buildings and trees. Like a real airplane, as they began their takeoff, the instruments constantly updated and the view changed, showing their progress down the runway and into the sky.
The Aviation camp has been held annually for more than a decade. This year, it was named in honor of Anna Reed, one of the camp’s co-founders, and most enthusiastic booster. William Hickman, chairman of the airport’s board of directors, said “I know she would have loved to have been here. We all miss her.” One of the staff members pointed to a large table and said “if she were here, that table would be crammed with enough food for 200 people. Pies and cakes, cookies… all kinds of snacks.” Rodney Smith, one of the pilot instructors said “She looked forward to this all year long.” Then another person added, “She was like everyone’s grandmother.”
Anna was the Secretary-Treasurer of the airport’s Board of directors. Each year, she took care of student registrations, making arrangements with the Aviation Museum for scheduling their personnel and simulators, coordinating pilot schedules, and perhaps most notable to some, made sure that no one went away hungry. She would begin cooking in anticipation of the camp, bringing plenty of baked goods and “goodies” for everyone. She passed away earlier this year and her absence was felt by all who had participated in the camp in the past.
Flights were delayed by heavy fog on the first day, but as soon as it lifted, students were buckling up in the pilot seat and shouting “CLEAR!” before starting the engines on the airplanes. Two students or three would get in the plane and leave for another airport. For example, one would fly to Big Sandy Regional Airport near Prestonsburg and land there. After changing places, another would take off and land the plane at Mingo County Airport in West Virginia, then another would take over for the flight back to Pikeville.
Most of the fliers had never been in the front seat of an airplane, but they were always kept safe by the steady hands of experienced pilots Rodney Smith, Kurt Wells, and Dustin Ratliff. These pilots have collectively flown more than 25,000 hours.
All three pilots donated their time and skills to the kids. Ed Murphy, one of the ground instructors from the Museum said to Mike DeBourbon, an owner who donated his aircraft for the camper’s use, “We’ve done a lot of these camps. Pikeville is by far the most generous and supportive community we go to.” Bill Hickman and the Twin Eagles flying club also donated aircraft.
At the awards ceremony when the camp was ending, Hickman asked the campers, “Did you have fun?” A cheer and applause was heard. He looked across the room at the photo of Anna Reed and asked, “Did you eat well?” The kids responded with a roaring cheer and even louder applause. Steve McKaid, who came from the Museum along with Kurt Jefferson and Ed Murphy, asked if they had learned anything. An almost simultaneous “Yeah!” erupted.
Students who are 10 to 15 years old can register for the camp, which is usually held in July. The airport’s telephone number is 606-432-5777. The
Aviation Museum can be contacted at www.aviationky.org.
— Article submitted for publication by Mike Titus