Students experience delight of flight at Fulton’s airport

A second grader from Rock Bridge Elementary School in Columbia points along with teacher Kaitlin Nichols as an airplane takes off at the Elton Hensley Airport in Fulton. A grant from the Kingdom Pilots Association provided transportation for a field trip to the airport where pilots taught the children aviation basics and allowed them to sit inside several airplanes.

A second grader from Rock Bridge Elementary School in Columbia points along with teacher Kaitlin Nichols as an airplane takes off at the Elton Hensley Airport in Fulton. A grant from the Kingdom Pilots Association provided transportation for a field trip to the airport where pilots taught the children aviation basics and allowed them to sit inside several airplanes. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

Kaitlin Nichols remembered lying on the concrete of the Elton-Hensley Memorial Airport in Fulton, watching the airplanes fly above her and experiencing the wonder of aviation as a little girl.

Her father flew planes there, and the airport became a part of Nichols and her sister’s childhoods.

“I grew up on the airport,” Nichols said.

Nichols, second grade teacher at Rock Bridge Elementary in Columbia, shared her love for aviation with two second grade classes on Friday. A grant through the Kingdom Pilots Association provided transportation for the students.

Local pilots showed off their planes and taught the second graders airplane basics, including airport functions and uses, Airport Manager Travis St. John said.

The importance of the field trip, St. John said, was to expose the children to something they may not have experienced before.

“You never know what will inspire the child,” St. John said.

This was true for St. John when he was 10 and he rode on a float plane over Lake Tahoe. He said that was the moment when aviation became a part of his life.

On Friday, St. John and other pilots tried to share that passion for flight with the children.

“We’re enthusiastic about aviation and we want others to be enthusiastic about aviation,” St. John said.

Pilot A. J. Stricker was 4 years old when father built him a model airplane out of a wooden drum. The country was fighting in World War II and Stricker, now 73, recalls using his imagination to fight off the enemy.

“I flew that plane all over the world from my front yard,” Housewright said.

Housewright would later fly in the 173rd Airborne BDE in Vietnam and 101st Airborne based in Fort Campbell, Ky.

Alan Hollandsworth, 49, of Columbia, is Nichols’ father and brought her to the airport time and time again when she was a child, and said it was exciting to see her students enjoying the airport in the same way his daughter used to.

When he was in Little League, Hollandsworth took an airplane ride and the excitement of that ride remained in his mind throughout his life, but it wasn’t until he was 35 that he finally able to learn how to fly.

Hollandsworth said aviation requires math and physics skills among others, and the field trip could open their eyes to a future in aviation.

“If just one of these kids goes on to enjoy it half as much as I do then it was worth it,” Hollandsworth said.

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