'100 years of flight'

Joseph elementary students pile out of a Chinook helicopter flown to Joseph from Pendleton by members of the Oregon Army Air National Guard. Photo by Rick Swart

The excitement was palpable in the hearts of Joseph fourth graders last week when the big green helicopter appeared on the horizon with its big rotors slapping the cold mountain air.

After all it isn't every day that 9- and 10-year-olds get to sit in the jump seat of an $18 million Chinook aircraft for lectures given by Army personnel.

"This is an all-weather helicopter with GPS navigation, advanced flight control systems, and all kinds of neat stuff that make it easy to fly," Army flight engineer Jeff Wimpey said to a group of wide-eyed youngsters. "That's why we call them stick wigglers." Wimpey pointed out that the Chinook was primarily a cargo aircraft, capable of carrying 34 passengers or two Humvee vehicles or 24 stretchers with injured soldiers.

The Army helicopter was the highlight of a fun-filled morning at the Joseph airport in which 100 years of flight was the topic of discussion. The event was organized by the Joseph elementary school site council, a group of teachers and parents who meet once a month to find ways to enrich the curriculum.

"Someone pointed out that this was the 100th anniversary of the first flight of Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kittyhawk so we decided to focus on that," said Rhonda Shirley, Joseph principal.

For the past two months teachers in grades K-5 have been integrating flight into students' studies. By the time they arrived at the Joseph air field they already had a basic understanding of the Wright brothers, airplanes, jet aircraft, helicopters, and rockets.

That knowledge was supplemented Friday by the National Guard flight crew along with several local pilots who brought their own aircraft to the event.

Russ Rotzler, 60, a retired contractor for the Boeing corporation, was there to show off his 1958 Mooney, a four passenger, single engine airplane with wings made of wood.

Rotzler talked about how his hobby of building model airplanes out of balsa wood when he was a youngster let him to a career of building models of jet aircraft tested in Boeing wind tunnels. Despite his heavy involvement in the aerospace industry for most of his adult life, Rotzler did not learn to fly until 1985.

"I never thought I was going to fly because i always got air sick when I flew with my dad," he said.

Rotzler noted that most small aircraft today is at least 20 years old because many manufactures have gone out of business because of tort laws and the high cost of liability insurance.

"It was a very informative event," Shirley said of the air show.

The next field trip planned by the Joseph site council is one on conservation scheduled for May, according to Shirley.

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