MIAMI COUNTY — A group of students from China are spending several days in our area learning about our rich aviation heritage. Among the stops on the class’ itinerary were two in Miami County.
Historic WACO Field and the WACO Museum and Aviation Learning Center were much-anticipated destinations for the group on Thursday, as all 17 students were to receive EAA Young Eagles rides.
WACO chief pilot Bob Wagner, Jim Bisner, and Mike Schnell flew the youngsters in groups of two and three until all were official Young Eagles. The group also made paper rockets and toured the museum.
On Friday, the students returned to Miami County, where they visited the Wright Aeroplane Company in West Milton. There, they got a hands-on experience in the wing-warping concept that allowed Wilbur and Orville Wright to become the first to achieve sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine in December of 1903.
The aircraft that students got the opportunity to see and touch was a Wright 1902 glider built at Russia High School in 2006 by Mr. Marcus Pettijean’s students. His students built that aircraft and several of them piloted the glider following its construction. For his work, Pettijean was awarded the annual A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Educator of the Year award by the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007.
One of the projects currently under way at Wright Aeroplance Company is the construction of a replica Wright 1902 glider that will be shipped to a museum in China when complete.
Students all participated in the construction of two ribs that will support and strengthen the wings of the aircraft. Each student then signed the rib. Wright Aeroplane owner Nick Edger told the students that one day, they will be able to visit the museum in China and know that they played a part in the building of that airplane.
The visit to our area for the Chinese students is being coordinated by Wright Brothers USA. The program was under the direction of Wright Brothers USA CEO Dave Lightle, who passed away earlier this year. The group was determined to see the project through in Lightle’s honor.
The group from China is from Jiabeicun Education Technology, Ltd., based in Shenzhen, which is near Hong Kong. It is similar to a number of our homeschool education experiences. They travel as a group around China for months at a time to experience and learn hands-on rather than through memorization and tests. This is their first trip outside China.
School founder He Junking said that part of the reason for the trip to the United States is the importance of teaching students what Western civilization is like. “You have to see it,” said He. “You cannot just read it out of books. You have to see it by the eyes. In China, we have always heard about the American spirit, the American dreams, so many good things about the United States.
“I think the Wright Brothers are the perfect combination of many American spirit(s).”
Students range in age from 7 to 11 years old. The 17 students are being chaperoned by five adult staff members.
While in this area, they will also visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force and Carillon Park.
They will also visit Viroqua, Wis., as well as Minneapolis, Yellowstone National Park and San Francisco before returning home to China.