Flight simulator at Air Museum is almost like the real thing

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Windsor Locks - posted Thu., Aug. 15, 2013
Chadrick, RJ Ebanks and Ornella listen to instructions on flying a plane at the New England Air Museum on Aug. 14. Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.
Chadrick, RJ Ebanks and Ornella listen to instructions on flying a plane at the New England Air Museum on Aug. 14. Photos by Calla Vassilopoulos.

As Ornella, Chadrick and RJ Ebanks walked around the New England Air Museum on Aug. 14, they learned about several planes used during World War II and throughout history. Though it was interesting for the Cayman Islands children, it was even more interesting to practice flying some of the planes.

While the kids were observing the planes in the newest section of the museum with their aunt from Windsor, they noticed an area with several large computers to the left of the room's entryway. After looking around a bit, they approached the area, and museum educator Paul Pagenkopp said, “Are you here for the 3:30 lesson?” He then pulled back the rope and allowed the children to enter the space known as Flight Sim Spot.

“It was designed to show kids 9 and up what it's like to be a pilot, the decisions you have to make and the things you get to see from the air,” said Pagenkopp, a former observation pilot. “It's a fun learning environment.”

Before Ornella, Chadrick and Ebanks sat down to "fly" their own plane simulators, Pagenkopp gave them a few instructions on taking off, maneuvering, braking and landing. First the educator gave the plane a “little bit” of throttle and said when on the runway they should use the pedals to maneuver the plane; right pedal turns the plane to the right, and left to the left. He said the steering mechanism, also known as a yoke, only works in the air. “It's the only time you can say, 'Look Mom, no hands,'” said Pagenkopp.

Further instructions about using the yoke included pulling back to make the plane go upward and pushing forward to make it go downward. Also, when maneuvering in the air, the yoke is turned in the opposite direction you want the plane to go - so they would turn the yoke to the left to go to the right and vice versa.

Once Pagenkopp finished teaching the children the basic principles, they were able to practice flying. “What is nice about what Microsoft Flight Sim does is it gives you the whole tutorial for student pilot, private pilot, instrument pilot [and] commercial,” said Pagenkopp. He also noted that once museum members become familiar with the fundamentals, they have the option to change their scenery. Some of the destinations include the Chicago skyline, pyramids in Egypt, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and more.

The activity was added to the museum a year ago and offers 30-minute or hour-long lessons. According to Pagenkopp, some use the program to practice for their pilot license in between their real-life lessons. He said he has worked with Boy Scouts to help them earn merit badges and has also offered lessons to home-schooled children to teach them the basics of flying.

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