“Aviators tell their own story,” says Lindsey Dreiling, president of the board of directors of the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education. “[The goal for KCAE] was to bring school-age kids to a hands-on experience, to sit in the aircraft.” With 53 aircraft total participating in the 2019 Kansas Air Tour last weekend, more than 1,000 students around the state had that opportunity.
Over the course of three days the pilots from Kansas and other states—such as Colorado, Iowa, and Texas—traced a route that began in Wellington and ended in Wichita. Weather came into play for a handful of the VFR-only aircraft, as IFR conditions covered a few of the airports—but those were still served by the instrument-capable pilots and airplanes in the group. All told, more aircraft participated in the tour than ever before.
The Kansas Air Tour is a joint effort between KCAE and the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, and this is the sixth consecutive year that the event has taken volunteer pilots and their aircraft to a circuit of Kansas airports. The students reached during the event can continue learning after the airplanes have flown away through KDOT’s STAR department—bringing teachers access to its “Science, Technology, and Aviation Resources.”
The KDOT’s goal for the program goes well beyond exciting students about STEM topics, however—the division wants also to impress upon residents of Kansas the importance of airports in their local communities. “The health care [the airport enables], for example—we had a local surgeon talk about how important it is to his community,” said Dreiling, because of services such as organ transport and EMT flight operations. Workforce development in aviation is another focus, with the goal of creating more pilots and maintenance technicians, and the jobs that come with them.