Roughly 1,200 high school and college students from across Washington state descended on Alaska Airlines’ maintenance facilities at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport recently to get a behind-the-scenes look at the aviation industry. More than 350 Alaska Airlines employees volunteered their time and expertise for the day.
The Navy brought an EA-18G Growler over from Naval Air Station Whidbey, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies brought vehicles and staff to answer questions about careers, and more than a dozen general aviation aircraft filled a hangar for students to see, and some were available for them to learn how to pre-flight, including a Piper J-3 Cub and a Cessna Caravan.
High school robotics teams brought their annual projects to the event; the robots threw and caught balls, navigated courses, and towed students around the hangar.
A seeming forest of balsa wood was sacrificed in the name of aerodynamic experiments – the air in the hangar was filled with little wooden gliders.
The airline even opened up its 737 simulators to the students, allowing them to try their hand at landing on one of the runways at Sea-Tac Airport. The event was very well organized, so much so that I didn’t dare try to sneak into the line and get some simulator time for myself.
Attendees were able to walk around a secured area of the hangar’s apron, watching commercial traffic come and go; truth be told, it was tough to break away from that and go see the other cool stuff.
Spacecraft manufacturer Blue Origin was there with a large model of their rocket and staff on hand to answer questions; their booth was mobbed every time I walked by.
Speaking of rockets, the event was an absolute blast to attend. There were smiling, excited faces as far as the eye could see, plus airplanes. Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden was there, but I only got to talk to him for a second because he was too busy having fun running around with the kids.