They have an aviation program for students who want to learn how to fly a plane (they'd had one in the past, but it was put on hold for a few years, but a revamped program is now up and running).
Well, for those new or returning students (and staff members) who are curious about what it's like and want to get a taste of flying a plane, Culver offers what's known as a one-hour "discovery flight." Three students (or three staff members) can sign up with the Culver aviation department to get a discovery flight scheduled.(Oftentimes, the older kids in Woodcraft - the 9-14 year olds - will take a Discovery Flight and then are interested in signing up for aviation classes when they return to Upper Camp; I believe they need to be at least 14 years old to take actual aviation classes.)
Then, after the trio's discovery flight is scheduled, Culver will transport the students via shuttle bus (while staff members drive themselves) to the Starke County Airport for their flight. The three students and an instructor pilot head off in a 4-seat Cessna, one student in the front along with the instructor pilot, and the other two students in the back. After a safety check around the aircraft by the instructor pilot, and after ensuring everyone is buckled up, the instructor pilot will give the student in the front seat a brief explanation of various instruments in the cockpit.
Then off they go, with the instructor pilot in control. After they're in the air, the instructor pilot will decide when it's a good time to hand the controls off to the student in the front. At that point, the student in front will actually be flying the plane, able to move the controls this way and that, and able to get a feel for how the aircraft responds to the controls (the instructor always there to give guidance or take over if safety dictates).
At this point, the student in front gets to fly the plane for 20 minutes!
After 20 minutes, the instructor takes over and they land at the airport. The three students play "musical chairs" and the other two students get to take turns sitting in front and flying the plane for 20 minutes each (the instructor pilot taking off and landing for all three).
Needless to say, I was able to take a discovery flight!
At the beginning of the summer, when all of the staff members were there the week prior to the start of camp, we were getting various in-processing briefings, one of which was by the Director of Aviation. At some point in her briefing, she was telling us about the discovery flight opportunity for anyone curious about Aviation. And . . . she said that the opportunity wasn't limited to just students! If any of us staff members wanted to take a discovery flight, we would just need to get two friends and get a discovery flight scheduled!
Well, at some point that week, I was talking to a new friend/fellow senior counselor, and I'd said, "You know what? That discovery flight opportunity sounded like a lot of fun. I'd love to do one!" And she said, "So would I!" And that's when the lightbulb went on over our heads.
She found a third person who was interested in going with us. The only problem now was trying to schedule it in - we were so busy as senior counselors that we kept saying, "Maybe next week . . . "
Finally, we ended up saying, "We've got to do it now, or we'll miss our chance."
So, July 27,2015, it was!
We were SO excited! And the exciting part was that they had three instructors available and three aircraft available, so we each went up at the same time (taking off one right after the other), so we didn't have to wait our turn - we were up in the sky at the controls at the same time.
And it was SO MUCH FUN!
We were able to fly over the campus, and Lake Maxinkuckee, and I was able to take two laps over the Riding Hall. It was awesome seeing the campus from a plane.
The only downside for me was that I was flying and couldn't take pics. So I only took two pics at the beginning, when the instructor pilot was taking off - just before he handed over the controls. (And I hadn't thought to give him my phone so he could take pics - of the riding hall AND of my being at the controls - until later on that day, when it was too late.)
Here we are, taking off:
Here we are, leveling off and the instructor is just about to have me take the controls:
Ahh, Indiana in the summertime . . .