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Rangers Bring Park Service Aviation to Federal Pavilion

By Tim Gaffney

  • Rangers Bring Park Service Aviation to Federal Pavilion
    Fairchild FC-2W2, the National Park Service’s first airplane, on static display with the NPS exhibit at AirVenture 2015.
  • Rangers Bring Park Service Aviation to Federal Pavilion
    Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, tries out the Wright Flyer simulator at the National Park Service exhibit at AirVenture last year.

July 23, 2016 - You might associate the familiar arrowhead, bison, and ranger hat of the National Park Service (NPS) with mountains and canyons, but the federal agency has had close ties with aviation for most of its 100-year history.

That’s why you’ll find an NPS exhibit in the Federal Pavilion with some special activities as part of the service’s yearlong centennial celebration, supported by rangers from Ohio’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Visitors can lie belly-down on a 1903 Wright Flyer simulator and try controlling the world’s first successful powered flying machine. They can also pose for a photo with Wilbur and Orville Wright, courtesy of green-screen magic.

The exhibit includes the service’s first airplane, a 1928 Fairchild FC-2W2. Originally acquired by the NPS in 1936, the single-engine, cabin monoplane was a workhorse on North Carolina’s Outer Banks for several years. It’s now owned by Greg Herrick’s Golden Wings Flying Museum collection in Blaine, Minnesota. Herrick, who once served as an NPS seasonal employee at Yellowstone National Park, restored the rare Fairchild to its NPS configuration and paint scheme. Today, the NPS operates a broad range of aircraft, flying approximately 20,000 hours annually.

USS Arizona Survivor at Theater in the Woods

The NPS’s World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is working with the EAA AirVenture Museum to support special programs commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on U.S. forces in Hawaii, including appearances by a Navy veteran who had a battleship and later a PBY shot out from under him. Retired Lt. Cdr. Louis Conter, 94, was serving on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor when Imperial Japanese forces attacked it, destroying the Arizona among other ships. Later, as a PBY pilot, he and his crew survived a night in shark-infested waters off New Guinea after their plane was shot down. Conter is scheduled to speak from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, in the Theater in the Woods, and take part in a forum, “Reflections of a USS Arizona Survivor,” at 11 a.m. Friday, July 29, in the Federal Pavilion.

Youth Program Junior Ranger Badges

NPS youth programs in the Federal Pavilion include a number of Junior Ranger activity badge programs, including an aviation badge, AirVenture pilot badge, NPS Centennial badge, NPS on the Air, and a special badge commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The programs are set up to allow young people to pick up activity booklets, complete the tasks at their convenience, and return them to the pavilion to pick up their badges.

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