Do you have a kid of any age (and I mean any age, including adults) interested in airplanes or the aerospace industry? There’s a new place in Mobile that must be added to your must-see list! Flightworks Alabama, which opens tomorrow, is the latest museum and learning center to open its doors to the public in Mobile. The grand opening for the general public will be tomorrow, August 4th, at 9:00 a.m.
The new museum serves several purposes. Through several grants generously given by Airbus, Airbus suppliers, and the state of Alabama, it serves as a museum and learning center for the public to learn about aerospace manufacturing and industry. It serves as a learning center and classroom setting for high school students who might be interested in a job or career in aerospace. It will also act as a welcome center of sorts for the Airbus campus in Mobile once COVID-19 social distancing rules and restrictions are lifted. This will allow Airbus to conduct public tours of the Airbus a320 final assembly line just down the street.
There is something for everyone at Flightworks Alabama! Do you like to fly drones? Want to race your buddies with your drones? Flightworks Alabama has a place for you to do that! They have an aviary which allows you learn how to fly drones or race against others if you’re an experienced drone flyer. They also conduct drone building workshops and flying workshops. Fly workshops teach drone users the FAA rules and regulations for drone flight, which is of great importance in airspace around airports.
Think you might have what it takes to have a career in aerospace? There are several stations in the learning center and a museum that allow you to test your skills in aerospace manufacturing. You can challenge yourself or your buddies to a rivet race to see who can secure the most rivets in a 60-second time frame. Like working with electricity and wires? See if you can find all the circuit combinations it takes to get everything working properly. Do you fancy yourself an artist? Maybe you can come up with the next great livery for one of Airbus’s customers at their tail painting station. Are you interested in the aerospace industry but not sure what the right fit for you would be? They have a solution for that at a station that allows you to get an overview of all the different careers in aerospace manufacturing to see if something sparks your interest.
The learning center isn’t just geared towards getting people interested in careers in aerospace manufacturing, it is also designed to teach you the basics of the aerodynamics required for airplane flight. They have a station that simulates how air flows over the different wings and the position of those wings as you’re flying through the air. It is an interactive exhibit that teaches you how and why some of the wings of aircrafts are designed the way they are, and how to get the most bang for the buck when flying. Of course, that’s not the only station that illustrates this either. Think you have what it takes to be the next great airline pilot? Well jump in the flight simulator and prove it! One of the more popular exhibits that will be in this museum’s learning center is the flight simulator, which has several different simulations that you can participate in. This reporter crashed the airplane a couple of times in the easiest and most basic simulation, so if you see me in the pilot’s seat of the cockpit when you board an airplane, turn around and run! Maybe you’ll have better skill with the flight simulator.
Do you want to learn about what goes into building an airplane? They have you covered at Flightworks Alabama! They have an actual retired Airbus a320 cockpit cabin piece inside the museum exhibit hall. When you walk in, you see what the inside of an airplane looks like when you walk onto the airplane as a passenger. However, if you turn around and look above and beside the door you just walked through, you’ll see all of the wires and different parts that are running underneath that paneling on the airplane. You’ll also get to see up close and personal what an Airbus a320 cockpit looks like and take a seat in some authentic Delta airlines comfort select airline seats (these are the more comfortable seats on an airplane). They also have a full-size engine for you to get an up close and personal look at the materials and intricacies of an airplane jet engine. Want to learn how all those parts travel around the world to get here to Mobile to be built without overstuffing the warehouses? Try your hand at the simulation to build your very own Airbus a320.
Then, of course, there’s the cool kid in the exhibit hall. That’s the virtual reality station where participants can do anything from experiencing the interior of an Airbus a220 (the newest member of the Airbus family), to experiencing a spacewalk or loading a payload at the International Space Station to even experiencing a Rover trip on Mars. I have a feeling that this station will be the most popular station in the whole exhibit hall.
Do you have kids that love learning new experiences in a hands-on environment? In addition to having camps and workshops to learn how to build and fly drones, Flightworks Alabama also has workshops where participants will learn how to make something out of the process of sublimation, which is the process of turning something from a liquid into a gas by skipping the solid stage. There’s also a workshop to teach you the inner workings of 3D printing.
Of course, it’s not just a museum and learning center for the public. Flightworks Alabama was also set up with multiple classrooms and a conference room for the purpose of being a learning center aimed at high school students who want to have a career in aerospace. Students will get the opportunity to learn the skills and get the certifications they need to move on to the Airbus final assembly line and start their career in building airplanes. The first class of the Flight Path 9 (the program for high school students to enter into the Airbus workforce) has already graduated and is waiting to come on board at the Airbus production facility in Mobile. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has delayed that process due to the effect it has had on the airline industry and the resulting impact on the aerospace manufacturing industry. Everyone associated with Flightworks has insisted that the Flight Path 9 graduates will be coming on board at Airbus once demand and production picks back up. However, they just cannot promise a certain start date because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The curriculum that is taught at the Flightworks Alabama facility was developed in conjunction with eight different universities. University of South Alabama, University of West Florida, Emery Riddle University, Auburn University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Alabama, and a few others contributed to the development of this program. Even employers that are not associated with the aerospace industry want to get access to this developing workforce, which now has specialized certifications and training. Evonik Industries in Theodore, Alabama has shown an interest in bringing on students from the Flight Path 9 program.
So, if you have anybody in your family who is interested in aerospace, airlines, or airplanes, this is a definite must for you to check out. Even if you don’t want to go for yourself, you may want to give your kids an afternoon of fun activities that will tire them out and make them easier to put the bed at the end of the night. If so, this place is also for you.
If you want to learn more about Flightworks Alabama, their hours of operations, pricing, or more information about the camps that they will be offering, go to their website: www.flightworksalabama.com. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop where you can purchase merchandise from Airbus, and merchandise made right there on site at the Flightworks Alabama facility. If you see me there, don’t forget to say hi!