Adel School’s all-female class enjoyed a trip to the Lake County Airport on Monday, Sept. 27 and got to hear about aviation firsthand from airplane and helicopter pilots. Local pilot Bruce Webbon helped coordinate the field trip and Adel School Teacher Stacey Martin said all of the students who visited now want to be pilots.
The students started their three-hour tour by hearing from Lake County Airport Flight Instructor Renzo Frigg, who told them a bit about what it takes to earn a pilot’s license. He said pilots in training can start taking lessons at age 15 and can do their “check ride” at 17. About 45-50 hours of training are needed to obtain a pilot license, he said.
Frigg said he did his first solo flight in Switzerland, where he is originally from. He had a female instructor and recalled being nervous when she told him to perform landings alone. Webbon emphasized the importance of taking training seriously as a mistake can result in death. “I had a lot of prep but it’s still scary when the instructor says, ‘Do it yourself,’” he recalled.
Webbon said he also had a female flight instructor, who he selected because she was from Montana and had done a lot of Search and Rescue work and he wanted to be a bush pilot. He attended bush pilot school in Alaska and learned to land in remote, difficult spots like gravel roads and lake beds.
Lake County Airport Mgr. Tom Andrews stopped by to speak to the students. He told them that he spends a lot of his time working on airplanes and helicopters. Webbon interjected, “If you want a job that pays well, learn to work on airplanes and helicopters.”
Andrews said he also flies in various wilderness areas to help with firefighting efforts.
The class then took a short bus ride to where a Boeing CH-47D Chinook Helicopter was kept and heard from helicopter pilot John Fryer.
“The amazing thing we can do that airplanes can’t is hover in one spot,” Fryer told the class. He said that ability is especially useful when fighting fires in order to drop water in a particular spot.
Fryer mentioned that the bucket hooked up to his helicopter can hold 2,600 gallons of water. “If there’s a big, out of control fire, they’ll call me,” he said. The bucket is about 7 feet tall but has four pumps in the bottom so that water can be pumped from bodies of water as little as 18 inches deep, Fryer explained. It takes less than a minute to fill the entire bucket.
He told the class that females make especially good helicopter pilots because the stick used to control the helicopter is so small and requires minimal movements to operate. “Men typically make big, aggressive movements. Females have a better sense of touch and finesse, so they make great helicopter pilots,” Fryer related.
In order to make the world of helicopters a bit easier to comprehend, Fryer often used cars or tractors as a comparison for the items he discussed. He said his helicopter has just over 10,000 horsepower, whereas a standard car has around 200 horsepower.
Martin later noted that Fryer was “phenomenal at taking big concepts and relating them to things the kids understood.” The class also got to step inside the helicopter and sit in the cockpit.
The students got to see some single-engine airplanes and sit in the cockpit of those as well. Martin said they especially enjoyed seeing Webbon’s plane as it was a Cessna, which they had studied in preparation for the tour.
“Everyone was so generous in taking the time to explain things to these five kids,” Martin said. “It was like it opened a new world for them.”
Webbon talked to the class about his recent involvement in testing new spacesuits for NASA and gave each student an informational poster. He also shared about his employment with NASA before he retired.
“They’re looking forward to doing more aviation studies,” Martin said of her class, noting that she is looking for ways to incorporate more on the subject into the curriculum.