Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Regional Airport Tour

Last week I called to inquire about scheduling a tour of the airport ten minutes from our house. I coordinated with my group of mom friends to schedule a free group tour today. It was so interesting! Here's the tour description:

Pre-Arranged Guided Tours: Concord Regional Airport is the 5th busiest airport in the state, with nearly 200 takeoffs or landings daily. The airport is home to over 160 airplanes, five flight schools and a helicopter training school. Because of the close proximity to so many race teams, about 60 percent of the airport’s overall business is NASCAR related. Roush Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart Haas Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports are just a few of the tenants. Pre-arranged tours begin in the terminal with an overview of the facility. Then, take an up-close look at the planes, a fuel truck and other equipment used by the airport. Visit the on-site fire station to learn about aircraft rescue and see the fire trucks designed for airports. Ride by hangars where some of the biggest names in racing house their personal aircraft. Tours are geared to fit groups' needs.

Even though I scheduled the tour last week and called yesterday to confirm it, they weren't expecting us today. We had to wait in the lobby for a bit while they located someone who could lead a tour. Jackson's friends love the babies, so none of the kids noticed the delay.

Because it is a regional airport (as opposed to the international airport a half hour from our home), we could actually walk beside the runway. We were only a hundred feet away from a row of private jets and smaller commercial airlines.

We even watched some of the trainer pilots taxiing planes and taking off.

The tour guide pointed out the fueling trucks. He showed us various equipment they used to put behind the wheels of the planes, literal red carpets for celebrity passengers, and other interesting items.

By far the most interesting part of the tour was the medical chopper. We talked at length to the pilot, who was stationed through the military, and two medics, who worked for the hospital.

The medical helicopter transports patients from one hospital to another, as well as from remote scenes of accidents to the hospital. The medics explained how challenging it is to perform CPR on a patient while in the air, which is why they will not transport a patient until their heart is beating. I knew a good bit because of my sister-in-law, so the pilot said, "You must be in the medical profession." No way.

I asked if a family member could travel with the patient in the helicopter and a medic replied, "generally, though it depends on their weight". I got a bit lost in the technicalities, but apparently the greater the weight, the more fuel is used. I cannot imagine being told that I could not ride with my critically ill husband or child because I weighed too much!

The kids weren't as interested in the medical equipment as the adults so they just ran around the hangar. Then each kid got a turn sitting in the helicopter.

The kids were able to touch several planes. I kept the babies in the wagon the whole time because I knew they would be under and climbing inside planes. Since the tour was outside I packed their lunch to keep them content in the wagon.

Our last stop was the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting section. While it barely resembled the typical fire department, the firefighter showed the kids the hoses and valves.

He passed around his helmet and clothing to let the kids try on. He tried to ask them fire safety questions (i.e. "What should you do if you find matches?" What should you do if you hear the smoke detector go off?"). None of the kids answered correctly, so then he asked the moms to review fire safety at home. Mom-fails all around.

After the fire safety lecture, each child was allowed to sit in the gargantuan vehicle.

After an hour and a half, we returned to the main terminal and departed ways. I'd love to return when the kids are older and have a greater curiosity about aircraft. This was definitely my favorite "field trip" to date.

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