be in an F-18, I’ll rest assured.”
Both my sons recently attended a week long camp at the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida. I’m a huge fan of the Blue Angels, and The National Museum of Naval Aviation has always been a favorite place to visit for our family. From our home in Fairhope, the museum is only an hour drive to the east.
The National Flight Academy, is located adjacent to The National Naval Aviation Museum and opened in 2011. Students in grades 7-12 spend an intense week aboard “The Ambition,” a 100,000 square foot, four story aircraft carrier simulator. Walt Disney World Imagineers contributed to the overall feel of realism that even includes the sound of seagulls as you board the gangplank. “Ready rooms” full of high tech equipment, cabins with real military style bunks, mess hall and flight simulators are all used to give the students the feel of an authentic naval aviation experience at sea.
Funded by donations through the The National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation (no tax money), the program is designed to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and has attendees from all over the world. There were several students from Germany in one group, and they were expecting another group of students from Ireland the next week. This summer will produce twelve weeks of camp, with each camp facilitating approximately ninety students.
During the school year, The Ambition is host to adult groups. How fun is that?
I was worried one son wouldn’t like the math portion of the camp, so I conveniently forgot to mention that would be part of the week. But when he graduated and received his “wings,” he proudly showed us his flight log where he had calculated pages and pages of his air speed, fuel capacity, distance, etc . . . “Wow, you did a lot of math!” I commented. His practical response (that all math teachers need to remember) was, “Mom, it’s easy when it makes sense!”
Although the Blue Angels are currently grounded due to government budget cuts (don’t get me started) the students were still able to spend an entire morning talking to the Blue Angel pilots and tour their facilities and actual planes. *(written in 2013)
At the end of the week, the AXP’s received an “emergency message” regarding a terrible cruise ship accident in the Gulf. The well trained pilots sprang into action and manned their stations, each young pilot taking a turn to rescue stranded passengers from the violent waves. Thankfully, no one was lost at sea.
We brought home two confident, happy pilots and celebrated their achievements of rescuing lives at sea by eating popcorn and watching Top Gun.