Aeronautics Fair takes flight at Kent State

Larry Weimer is a memeber of the Kent Corsair model aircraft club and is flying one of his planes at the 20th Kent State Aeronautics Fair Saturday Sept. 10, 2016.

Cameron Gorman

Despite the heat Saturday, the Andrew W. Patton Field at the Kent State University Airport for the university’s Aeronautics Fair, an annual tradition for over 20 years, was packed with patrons.

From marveling in the shadows of towering vintage airplanes to rides with the Precision Flight Team, the fair offered a little bit of everything having to do with air travel.

“The main purpose is just community outreach,” said Maureen McFarland, senior academic program director of aeronautics. “We obviously love aeronautics, we love aviation … and it’s just to kind of share that with the community, get our students involved. One of the things we really try to do is … raise scholarships.”

In fact, most of the volunteers were freshman aerospace students like Zach Williams, an aerospace engineering major.

“When I was little, this man took me up in a helicopter,” said Williams, who was helping with the fair’s airplane rides throughout the day. “That just made me really interested (in aeronautics). I like how they do this, it’s a really good program.”

Though the event was free, attendees were given the chance to donate to the program and participate in a raffle. Food trucks selling ice cream, lemonade and fair foods catered to the fair-goers, along with the Kiwanis Club of Stow-Munroe Falls, who served a pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aside from the chance to step inside the vintage aircrafts, children’s activities took place in the hangar, along with other events. 

Guest speakers presented speeches on topics that ranged from NASA engineering to technological possibilities of fuel cells, which was presented by Yanhai Du, an assistant professor and director of Kent State’s Clean Energy Lab.

“(It’s) an opportunity to educate the public,” said Du, who was invited to speak at the fair for the first time this year. “Now there’s so much reliance on air transportation, but air transportation causes a lot of air pollution.”

Another speaker, Ken Ramsay, a former USAF tactical fighter pilot, gave an overview of his experience in the military and throughout his flying career.

“I think you have a great aviation program here,” Ramsay said. “I still fly airplanes, and I listen to the people flying here … very professional sounding on the radio.’

Among other ventures, he was a tactical fighter pilot of the F-100 Super Sabre, an instructor pilot, and was on armed alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“I wanted to be a pilot since I was (small), and I did everything in my life to do that … It’s just fun. It’s a freedom, you don’t have roads and traffic signals, and you go from point A to point B rather quickly,” Ramsay said. “Pilots identify with each other. Everyone has a lot of flying stories they can tell- some are true. Pilots, like race car drivers … elaborate a lot, but pilots are kind of a club-type thing.”

The understanding between those who fly, a connection strengthened by hours spent working toward licenses or practicing in the air, is a bond that has perhaps only been strengthened by the strains placed on the air travel industry since 9/11. 

The fair, which took place only a day before the historical date, was aware of the proximity.

“There was a conscious decision to keep it here because we’re always very aware of 9/11,” McFarland said. “It’s the love and the honor and the passion of aviation … we feel like it’s more honoring the history and the memory of it by just continuing to celebrate aviation.”

Veteran Bryan Rocks attended the fair with his son, as much to show him the planes as to help teach him their significance.

“Just giving my son the opportunity to see some of the old military aircrafts … It gives him the opportunity to see the history behind planes,” Rocks said. “The history is what shaped our country, and (to) just understand what some of the people have had to go through, to gain some respect of what people have gone through so that we can enjoy events like this.”

The airshow is an expensive affair, but as long as it can continue to be funded, McFarland plans to see it through as a Kent State tradition.

“There’s still sort of that element of joy when you think about flying,” said. “It’s just … it’s fun, and we like to share that.”

Cameron Gorman is a diversity reporter, contact her at [email protected].