Future Aviators Camp continues to break attendance records
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
About halfway through the opening afternoon of the Future Aviators Camp at the New Garden Flying Field on Aug. 10 – the second camp held this year – general manager Jon Martin stopped to look at the flurry of activity in front of him.
With the help of camp guides, a dozen youngsters were launching water bottle rockets they had made just outside of a hangar, while insider the hangar, another dozen campers were transfixed with flight simulators that effectively put them in the pilot's seat. In another corner, yet another group was putting the finishing touches on protective containers that would soon hold a soft-boiled egg to be airlifted and dropped from 100 feet – one of many demonstrations during the five-day camp. A few campers were waiting their turn to take a private flight with a pilot, and still more youngsters were enjoying a water slide.
"When we first began this camp seven years ago, we had 28 campers," Martin said. "For our first camp in July this year, we had 81 youngsters, and this week, we have 71. That's 152 campers in one year."
In short, the Future Aviators Camp in New Garden, which finished its second camp on Aug. 15, is a non-stop classroom of fun, creativity and adventure, and the secret is now out: It's become one of the leading aviation camps for youth in the entire United States.
"We were asked to be a part of the EAA national meeting in Oshkosh to talk about our program, and to figure out how the national organization could help us develop this camp even more than we have already," said camp co-founder Court Dunn. "To be recognized by the national association is a real feather in our caps."
Throughout the week, campers were introduced to the four principles of flight: drag, lift, gravity and thrust, but the camp wasn't just confined to the Flying Field. Kids took a bus trip to Washington, D.C., where they toured the Air and Space Museum. At the end of the week, campers and their families were treated to hot-air balloon rides at the Flying Field.
"Our biggest intention is to expose our campers to all of the different avenues they can pursue in the field of aviation," Dunn said. "When Jon and I decided to start this seven years ago, we had a lot of naysayers who said that kids won't want to be out here. 'They want to be inside playing video games,' they told us.
"We just didn't believe them, and within a couple of weeks, without any real marketing, we had our first camp, and mostly by word of mouth, we just continue to grow and grow."
In addition to kids who are dropped off every morning from nearby towns, the camp continues to draw from as far away as Texas and California. "Every year, we let kids be kids, and we just set up the opportunities for them to learn more, and be outside," Dunn said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.