On target

A class of students from My School Summer Day Camp in Morehead City stay on target as they tour Michael J. Smith Field in Beaufort Wednesday. (Dylan Ray photo)

A summer camp activity took off in a big way Wednesday as a group of day camp students got the chance to tour Michael J. Smith Field Airport in Beaufort.

Children from My School Summer Day Camp in Morehead City were invited to tour the airport, learn about its history, airplanes and ways they could one day become involved with flying.

“We do something like this once a month,” Airport Manager Renee Rogers said. “It’s a great way to get people excited about airports.”

The day’s activity began with a small presentation about the airport. The airport was first organized in 1941. In 1942, the Civil Air Patrol formed Coastal Patrol Base 21. Then in 1943, the federal government took control of the airport for national defense to prepare for World War II.

Local astronaut and engineer Michael J. Smith learned to fly at the Beaufort airport. He went on to become a NASA astronaut and was the pilot of the Challenger shuttle when it exploded in 1986.

After his death, the airport in Beaufort, his hometown, was renamed the Michael J. Smith Field Airport to honor his memory.

The students also learned about how people with airplanes helped fishermen.

They were known as menhaden fish spotters, and pilots would tell the fishermen how far away they were from the fish when out on the water.

Ms. Rogers ended Wednesday’s presentation by telling the students how they could get a job flying or working on airplanes.

“There’s lots of jobs you can do,” she said. “You can build airplanes, fix airplanes and fly airplanes for fun.”

After the presentation, the students explored the airport and learned about the different aircraft.

One of the pilots on the field showing off her plane was Beth Beswick. Ms. Beswick’s plane is a 1985 Cessna 182, and she told the children a bit about it.

“I call it ‘Charlie’ because it’s a 124 Uniform Charlie,” she said. “It’s been taken apart on the inside because it’s having some work done.”

Ms. Beswick said she has been flying for many years.

“I have been a pilot for 18 years. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

The children also got to explore the airport’s hangars and learned how airplanes need to back into the hangar, which houses them, so they will properly fit.

A rich learning opportunity is the reason those at My School Summer Day Camp’s directors reached out to the airport.

“They need to learn about what’s in their environment,” camp instructor Julianna Henry said. “They live right here and never get to see this, and it’s fun for me too. I live here and it’s my first time coming here.”

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