FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The weekend sunshine brought out those young and old together to the annual Fairbanks Aviation Day on Saturday.
Members of the community were able to experience first-hand an inside look into large and small aircrafts, a tour of the airport and even take a 20 minute flight in a plane.
Kevin Alexander is an Associate Professor with the UAF’s community and technical college aviation maintenance program. Alexander also serves on the Airport’s Operator’s Council which is the organizing committee for Fairbanks Aviation Day.
“Fairbanks Aviation Day is an Airport open house, an opportunity for the public and community of Fairbanks to come out and interact with aviation professionals and aviation businesses and even private aircraft owners and get an idea of scope of aviation in and around Alaska,” said Alexander.
Alexander said these days it’s rare that people can get up close and personal with large aircraft with the modern security measures from commercial jets to military aircraft.
“And so having the Fed Ex 727 at UAF community and technical college provides an opportunity for folks to get up close and personal and see inside the cockpit of a large jet and at the very least get more comfortable with large aircraft when they do go flying and maybe there is a career in their future.”
He said aviation is a broad industry, with aircraft like that of the U.S military to aircraft that helps fight wildland fires across the state of Alaska. At the event there were privately owned aircraft people to use to go hunting and fishing, and to fly to remote cabin sites.
A big draw for the event is the young explorer flights. Where local commercial carriers actually take a break out of their busy day to provide aircraft and pilots to give young people their first flight experience at Fairbanks aviation day for ages 8 to 14.
“The seats sell out just like a regular airline, the seats kind of “Sell Out,” pretty quick. It books up really fast in the morning. But it’s a bit hit and it is a great opportunity for the kids to get a good positive experience with aviation,” said Alexander.
UAF also brought down their unmanned aircraft fleet to put on display for the public.
“The Alaska Air National Guard is here with their black hawk helicopter. Again to reach out the community give people an opportunity to see the aircraft up close and personal. That is another aircraft that you don’t get too see very often being on a military installation and out performing it’s missions. It’s usually not out in the public eye so it’s really cool to get up close to that aircraft as well,” he said.
One of the goals of Fairbanks Aviation day is to raise funds for scholarships opportunities for aviation students, one of those students David Swenson has a bachelor’s degree in professional piloting and has career aspirations in the commercial aircraft world here in Alaska.
“The scholarship is intended to be used for aviation education. David is currently enrolled in UAF’s CTC aviation maintenance program, and has already got a bachelor’s degree in professional piloting,” said Alexander.
“I was the very lucky winner of this year’s AOC scholarship and so with some help from some administrators and some peers I got to apply to that scholarship and luckily earned that scholarship, and so I am really excited for that,” said Swenson. “Right now, 100 percent of that is going right back to aviation. So after this program ends in the fall and after that I plan to get flight instructor’s certificate and whether that is here in town or out of town I’m not sure yet,” he said.
Growing up in the small town of Nome, Swenson remembers a flight that drew him into this career. He plans to take this opportunity to get his pilots instructors license and further his education in aviation.
“I love to fly and I love to fly small planes and I really do love Alaska so I think I’ll defiantly plan to be here in Alaska for career and I plan to fly here,” said Swenson.
Fairbanks Aviation Day showcased all aspects of aviation from unmanned aircraft, to aircraft that help fight wildfires, and more. This all age family event is just another way to bring the community in the seat of a pilot and hopefully inspire young pilots to pursue their dreams.
Fairbanks Aviation Day is an annual event, held on the third Saturday every May.