Thursday, October 15, 2015

Concord Regional Airport Tour

Yesterday we went on a group tour of the Concord Regional Airport. I'm always looking for something fun to do on Wednesdays. Monday morning I called the regional airport to see if they had any times available for a group tour. I texted a few moms of preschoolers and set up our tour. Jesse's mom was also able to join us.

The tour itself was somewhat disappointing. Unlike last year, we were not able to go on any planes or helicopters. The medical helicopter took off while we were there, so we didn't get an opportunity to see inside. Still, we were able to have a uniquely close view of planes, helicopters, and a firetruck.

The weather has been ideal this week, which is great considering it was an outdoor tour,

We saw planes being pulled to hangars. I don't know it never dawned on me that this was a necessary step. I guess I just assumed they could drive around like a car.

The fuel trucks on site were interesting because MiMi told the kids about PaPa working with the fuel trucks while he was in the Air Force. It's hard for me to picture Jesse's parents when they were younger.

Each of the kids took turns directing the planes with the official orange wands (that likely have some official name I don't know). 

To compensate for the lack of public planes, the tour guide let us go inside a hangar filled with private jets. The hangar was immaculate!

We walked along the edge of the wall, cautiously staying behind the ropes and tape. One of the jets was open. It was so tempting just walk up the stairs and make myself comfortable.

I brought the wagon, though it was unnecessary with MiMi's extra hands. Maddie was the only one who stayed in the wagon, though she would have been happy in the single stroller.

The three jets belonged to Joe Gibbs Racing. The airport is just a few minutes from the Charlotte Motor Speedway and they work regularly with members of NASCAR. The head of aircraft maintenance stopped to tell us a bit about the planes and racing team. Some random interesting facts:
The jets are stripped completely every 6 years for a thorough safety inspection. (Commerical airplanes are gutted every 3 years.)
The jets must make a fuel stop if they're traveling cross country. Anytime a team flies out to California, a maintenance member has to fly with them.
Joe Gibbs' private jets are washed and cleaned by hand. They were SO shiny! A worker rolled around in a special chair, buffing underneath the wings while we were there.

The highlight of the tour was the fire station. I learned much more about the differences between a regular firetruck vs an ARFF. We joked that the fireman looked like Tinman. (Everything is a Wizard of Oz reference lately.) The fireman explained that he had to wear a special aluminized suit to reflect the extreme heat of an aircraft fire. Not surprisingly, Maddie and Amelia cried as soon as he suited up.

The big kids were able to go inside the truck. There are no hoses on an ARFF. The tank holds thousands of gallons of water and foam, and has two nozzles (above and below the windshield) that eject water or foam. The truck also has an infrared camera to detect heat. I stood in front of the truck so the boys could see my body heat on the cameras. I know all of this information was way over the kids' heads, but I found it fascinating.

On the way back to the terminal, we were able to watch another plane take off. It's probably the closest any of us will ever be to a runway. None of the kids were especially excited about any part of the tour, but I know they were able to learn and observe a good bit about aircrafts.

Each child received a goodie bag with coloring books, math activities, simple model plane, and crayons. 

 The airport tours are really impressive, especially considering how accommodating the staff is and the fact that it's free.

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