Flying high on planes
by Dana Yates, San Mateo Daily Journal   

Planes that might normally cruise the sky above the Peninsula were grounded at Sandpiper Elementary School in Redwood Shores for a crash course in math and science yesterday.

“There’s always that mystery – they see them coming and going every day but don’t know how they work,” said Principal Linda McDaniel. “Whatever kind of connection you can make for them is really, really important.”

The San Carlos Pilots’ Association sponsored yesterday’s event that brought three small planes to the school’s playground. Class by class, student shuffled by the planes and climbed into the cockpit of a Kitfox.

“I love airplanes, it’s cool how they can fly,” said third grader Megan Lange, who admits science is not her favorite subject.

However, you never know what kid will get turned on to science by a quick airplane tour, said Carol Ford, president of the San Carlos Pilots’ Association.

The association wants to improve the event later this fall by making it a parade of planes that travel from San Carlos Airport to the school by way of Redwood Shores Parkway. The parade would help bring together the community as well, an aim of both the pilots association and the neighborhood association.

“It’s fabulous for the kids. Not just that the planes are pretty and great to look at, but it will help them learn too,” said Jim Cvengros of the Redwood Shores Community Association.

The community association originally offered to cover gas for the planes to travel from the airport to the school, but opted for popsicles after the grand parade was postponed, Cvengros said.

For Ford, it’s a mission to bring flight into the state curriculum as a way to teach math and science. She hopes it will catch on locally and spread. What better way to teach children about math and science than with aircraft, an industry that supports a majority of the county?s residents, Ford said.

By bringing the planes to schools, the pilots association also hopes to turn on a new generation to aviation. The number of new pilots is dwindling, Ford said.

That may be due in part to increase fuel prices, which run $6 to $7 a gallon for planes.

However, interest in youth programs at the Hiller Aviation Museum have never been higher, said Vice President of Operations Willie Turner.

Summer camps are already sold out and space was doubled this year, Turner said.

The museum also sponsors the Young Eagles program that allows kids between the ages of eight and 17 free airplane rides on the third Saturday of each month.

It might be worth the costs if you have a kid like Ford, who as a child would be drawn to watch every plane in the sky. Years later, as kids filed past her for a chance to sit in a cockpit, Ford smiled as she heard a plane take off from San Carlos Airport.

So did every child on the playground.




Dana Yates, San Mateo Daily Journal
First grader Hunter Binasik took control of the Kitfox experimental plane which landed in the Sandpiper Elementary School playground yesterday afternoon. The plane was at the school to help get kids interested in aviation and science.
from May 29, 2008 San Mateo Daily Journal