Flying High with the Scouts
I almost hate to tell people about this one because it might give them ideas about doing it themselves. I had teamed up with another district in our council to put this one on and it was a nightmare of logistical details.
We used a small airport in a town about 45 miles south of Minneapolis and the Scouts slept overnight in a field on the airport. The weekend before our Camporee the airport was supposed to have a major balloon rally and so they had the runways fenced off, port-a-potties set up, and other important details that would help us out a great deal. The town backed us 100%, the mayor, city council, chamber of commerce, fire dept., etc. all were very helpful in this regard, this was especially good as we were doing this at a site outside of our council. At first the airport manager was not very enthusiastic about it but I think he eventually realized that we could run a safe program with 750 Scouts on an active airport.
It is tough to describe how much work it took to make this event happen. We had a pretty good staff from the 2 districts and even then it was an incredible amount of work for everyone. I ran up a huge bill on my calling card (can't do long distance calls from work :-( ) trying to line up acts for our airshow, as well as all of the other little details that needed to be taken care off. We had lined up 5 planes from the Confederate Air Force, crop dusters, bi-planes, parachutists, helicopters from the National Gaurd, Mayo Clinic, and the MN State Patrol, gliders, as well as numerous other planes to have on display.
One of the key points to the day was that we were going to try to give plane rides to as many Scouts as possible. We were doing this in conjunction with the EAA as part of their Young Eagles program. Scouts who got the rides would receive a certificate showing that they had taken the ride and the EAA chapter would be able to include them in the competition they were running amongst the chapters to get the most young eagle flights done.
Another goal we had was to get as many Scouts as possible Aviation Merit Badge. We had lined up dozens of counselors, as well as other knowledgeable aviation industry personnel to come in and help the boys work on the badge. We had a senior engineer from NASA on hand to talk with the boys about space, we had dozens of pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, flight instructors and more. We received incredible assistance from the MN DOT's Aviation Education department with this part of the event. We also had about 5 or 6 computers set up running flight simulators for the Scouts to play. We also had a great presence from our Air Force and Air National Guard recruiters.
I could go on forever about this Camporee. It was by far the biggest event I have ever done, and I am not sure that I would even suggest that other districts do this. If you are in a small council this would definitely be a council level event. It requires a huge budget and a tremendous amount of time and resources to pull off. The town really wants us to come back, however the other district's Camporee guy has sworn never to do it again. I am not sure if I will or not, I learned a tremendous amount that I think would make it much easier for the next time. See below for the details of the Camporee.
What went not so good:
Timing is EVERYTHING!!
September 11th. That pretty much says it all. With the ban on private aviation being finally lifted the day before our event we lost a number of aircraft displays that were supposed to be there. And even then there was a ban on non-IFR flight within 45 miles of a major airport and unfortunately many of our planes were coming from that area and were non-IFR rated so they couldn't fly, our airport was just barely outside of the 45 mile limit. We also lost out on some of our other military stuff that was supposed to be there.
The weather of course did not cooperate with us at all. For the first 4 or 5 hours things were nice but then it very rapidly turned very bad. We ended up sending all of the Troops home at around 6pm because the weather was deteriorating so fast, and a wide open airport is not the place to be in that situation.
We had also partnered with the Civil Air Patrol to help us with security for the event. Unfortunately many of our Scout adults didn't think that they needed to listen to some kid in fatigues and that caused some conflicts with the CAP. Their thought was "why did you bring us for security if you aren't going to listen to us?" We didn't have any problems with the Scouts, just the adults.
Another thing is the parachutists. Everything was lined up and ready to go when they asked for $500 right before the event for insurance, they hadn't brought up that little tidbit before. We were going to have them parachute in the flags for flag raising as well as jump in a couple times during the day. They were also going to be doing parachute packing demos. Because at this point our budget was very stretched we couldn't come up with the money so they didn't come.
What went good:
We had a great turnout, around 750 Scouts and around 250 adults. Even with the weather everyone had a fantastic time. We managed to get around 28 Scouts plane rides before the weather shut us down and they all loved it. We also had 3 of the 5 CAF planes show up, a B-25, a P-51, and a T-6 training aircraft. They were definitely the highlight of the day. They did formation flying over the airport both when they showed up, and when they left for the day. We also had the crop duster and bi-plane doing some very cool flying over the field as well, the Scouts were very impressed with the maneuvers. We also had the NG helicopter show up, since they don't have to worry about the IFR rules.
We managed to get around 200 Scouts Aviation Merit Badge. Several hundred more got partials that they should be able to complete fairly easily. In addition to that they all learned an incredible amount about the aviation industry. The Air Force recruiter brought along a mini-F16, kind of like a airplane go cart, which was a big hit as well. The Scouts were bummed that they weren't allowed to drive it. We also had a F-4 Phantom Cockpit-on-a-Trailer that was there, the Scouts put on helmets and a flight suit and got their pictures taken in it. The same went for a Cobra helicopter cockpit that showed up.
All in all, even with the weather everyone (except maybe the staff) had a great time.
If you are going to do this in conjunction with the military (and I highly advise that you do because they have the really cool stuff that the Scouts want to see), you need to find out what weekend are the Drill weekends for the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve in your area. I was told numerous times by officers that they would have come but they weren't working that weekend. It turns out they were working but they couldn't have come anyway. Also there is a form that you must fill out to get the military to come to a Air Show. I can't remember the name of the form now but if you talk with any military aviation people they can refer you very quickly to it. You MUST fill this out a long time in advance of the airshow. Getting approval on this stuff is much more painful than getting teeth pulled. Even after you get this form approved it is up to you to contact the units directly and convince the commanders to let the aircraft come. The form is just DOD approval saying that the commanders can allow aircraft to come, not requiring them to.
Also for any kind of an airshow you need FAA approval. Call you FAA office well in advance and get a copy of the regulations regarding airshows. The process for this makes the military end of things look easy. You also have to have this approval before most commanders will authorize aircraft to attend the event.
You must have hanger space available in the event of inclement weather. We had numerous "Plan B" meetings were we detailed contingency plans for what we would do in case of rain, high winds, hail, and worse. All along thinking that kind of stuff doesn't happen in Minnesota in the late September. Well it did. If we wouldn't have had the hanger space the weekend wouldn't have turned out near as good. The Scouts were able to stay in the hanger and work on Aviation MB while it rained outside. Also remember that hangers are death traps in a tornado, you must have plans for moving Scouts away from the airport as quickly as possible if the forecast indicates straight line winds or worse. We hadn't planned for sending Scouts home early so we had to wing that part of things.
A close working relationship with the airport manager, airport board, and the city are essential. Any one of the three can stop this in it's tracks if not properly handled. You must convince them that you can do this safely by documenting every step of the program, the security procedures, contingency plans and more. A good relationship with the city's emergency coordinator (in smaller cities usually the fire chief) is very good as well.
Get the local Chamber of Commerce involved. This will vary by city but the Faribault, MN COC did a fantastic job of getting organizations involved to help us out with donations, assistance with planning, and more. They were so excited by this that they wanted us to turn it into a yearly event, I had to laugh at that one.
If you drive by some of these small airports you would be amazed at what is tucked away in some of run down hangers. In our planning process were found dozens of planes that were great for displays as well as the airshow that no one knew about except for the guy next door. There are no lists of these planes anywhere, you just have to start digging and pretty soon someone is telling you about Joe's old plane, that turns out isn't really old and Joe is tickled pink at the thought of showing it off. Most smaller airports have a pilots association that you really need to talk with. Almost every one of the aviators I spoke with will go on forever, and ever, and ever about aviation. This is a very tightly knit group where everyone knows everyone and they will be the ones that get you the good displays. This brings us to the last point....
You really need to have an aviation person on your planning staff! This was probably my biggest problem. I couldn't find anyone for the longest time, and then when I did his job demands kept him from doing much. He wasn't even able to make it to the Camporee at all, which is when I really wanted him. To do this safely you need someone who is comfortable on the flight line and knows what can be done when, where, and how without risking Scouts. This is especially true if you are going to be doing rides for the Scouts.
I am sure that there is more but I can't think of it now. If you are thinking about doing this drop me and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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