I’ve lived in Madison County all my life and driven by the Space & Rocket Center probably thousands of times. Like many Huntsville natives, up until last weekend I never really looked closely at what goes on there. Neither myself or my husband come from a military background or have family that works in aerospace or engineering.
MY EYES HAVE BEEN OPENED.
My whole family attended Family Aviation Challenge camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center last week, and it was a wonderful experience. We packed a suitcase and settled in for a weekend of togetherness and team-building. Yes, this liberal-arts-brained English major willingly participated in non-stop activities that combined fighter-pilot training and aviation principals and loved every minute of it!
About the Program
Family Aviation Challenge is geared toward pilot training, with survival skills and high-performance jet simulators. Trainees work together to conquer take-off and landing skills while learning leadership and teamwork through interactive activities. They will learn about the history of aviation and get an up-close view of some of the world’s finest flying machines.
The program builds confidence by encouraging trainees to try new things, meet new people, and overcome challenges in a safe and positive environment.
All of USSRC’s Family Camps include on-site meals and lodging, with parents and kids housed together. The program is generally offered Friday – Sunday, and a four-day program is offered selected holiday weekends.
Most kids in our group attended with their dads, but there were also grandfathers and moms there too (I was one of two moms). There were a total of 12 people in our group called the Banshees, and you do all activities together throughout the weekend.
When they say this camp is action-packed, they aren’t kidding. Our days began at 6AM and ended with us falling into bed around 9:30 PM. Here’s just a small peek at what our daily schedule looked like:
1:00PM: Check-in and Orientation at on Friday. We got to meet Bob Springer, a Marine pilot and astronaut from 1981 – 1990. He told us about many of his adventures as a pilot and with NASA.
4:00 PM: Pre-brief and simulator practice before dinner. We learned the basics of taking off and landing the F/A-18 Hornet from the Miami Airport. This baby can reach speeds up to 1,183 mph and my whole family learned how to fly it, land it, and engage in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat by the end of the weekend!
6:30 PM: Boogie, our team leader, gave us an introduction to the basics of flight after dinner. We learned about roll, pitch, and yaw, and got an up-close look at the variety of aircraft they have on the campus. We learned the difference between a bomber and a trainer plane, or an attack and a cargo plane. We also got assigned our aviator callsign, or nickname. “Goose” and “Maverick” were already taken, so we became “Fox”, “Ice”, “Snake”, and “Bettie” for the rest of the weekend.
This was a 15-hour day so I won’t list everything we did in detail – just know it was all awesome, and included:
- Survival skills on land & water (in case you crash your Hornet)
- Lots of fun time practicing in the flight simulators
- A movie in the Davidson Center Theater
- Practice on the lake in the Dunker Lifter
- A ride on the Centrifuge
- A night-time Blitzkreig in the woods followed by a marshmallow roast
This was Graduation Day, but we still had work to do before that. After more flight simulator practice that included Parents vs Kids team missions, Boogie demonstrated more about flight and aircrew equipment. Each kid got a turn in the Spin Chair and a lesson in equilibrium and flight physiology. Watching those kids react after they were put in a tailspin was pretty hilarious!
My family enjoyed the Aviation Challenge experience immensely – we met new people, built a base of working knowledge about flight and aviation, worked as a family team, and learned important basic survival skills. My sons branched out of their comfort zone and tried something new and the results couldn’t have been better! Before Family Aviation Challenge, my kids had no knowledge of planes, flight, or aviation. Now, I have to finish writing this review so we can watch the latest documentary on the History Channel about Stealth Technology.
It’s THAT good.
If You’re Thinking of Going
Ages: 7 to 14 (child) / 18 to 99 (adult)
Pricing: Details and registration on the Family Aviation Challenge Website
Video: WHNT feature Family Aviation Challenge
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.