Hollywood Burbank Airport shares history, demonstrations by airfield personnel

A group of local children got a firsthand look Wednesday morning of how various employees help run the Hollywood Burbank Airport.

A group of 74 children in the Summer Daze Camp at Robert Gross Park congregated underneath a hangar in an area of the airport called the Million Air Burbank to learn about the airfield’s history and see demonstrations by TSA screeners and a ground crew from Southwest Airlines.

They also saw how Alaska Airlines uses technology to inspect luggage and how members of the airport’s police and fire departments use their equipment and gear.

Airport spokeswoman Rachael Warecki kicked off the event by sharing some of the airfield’s history, noting that there “wasn’t much in Burbank except for the airport” when it opened in 1930, and she talked about legendary pilots such as Amelia Earhart who took off and landed there.

During the three-hour event, students volunteered to take part in demonstrations, such as by posing as TSA screeners and searching for hidden Kit Kat candy bars in briefcases and backpacks.

Others donned florescent vests, knee pads and ear plugs then learned how to wave orange batons to tell pilots when to stop their airplanes. Some — including a camp leader — were handcuffed by police officers in a demonstration.

Even though the event was occasionally drowned out by nearby airplanes speeding down the runway while taking off, students remained engaged and asked questions, such as “Where is Amelia Earhart? and “How fast does an airplane go?”

Tom Janowitz, the airport’s senior manager of operations, said employees perform a variety of jobs including repeatedly making safety checks on the runways and notifying pilots when it’s time to prepare for landing through radio calls. He compared it to drivers having to call via radio for permission to merge onto freeways.

“It’s a lot of fun working at an airport. It’s like a little community making sure it’s safe for travelers,” Janowitz said.

Hollywood Burbank Airport police officers Ed Santos and Dan Arnold explained how they undergo special training to work at the airport and use equipment such as the T3 Motion Vehicle — an electric stand-up vehicle — that allows them to travel to terminals more quickly when carrying 30 to 40 pounds of equipment on their belts.

Officers also demonstrated how they use a Taser by shooting it at a target, much to the enjoyment of the children.

For many students, visiting an airport and seeing police and fire equipment up-close were new experiences.

“A lot [of them] haven’t been at an airport, so being here is a big deal in itself,” said Leo Rodas, director of the Summer Daze Camp. “They wanted to see an airplane and wanted to get on one. They were super excited to come.”

Audrey Ebrahimi, 10, volunteered to be handcuffed by police officers and said she was “shaken” by the experience when officers joked they’d lost the key.

Maya Whitton, 11, said she was surprised by all the demonstrations and originally thought they would “just be seeing planes.”

Maya volunteered to be a TSA agent, searching for hidden candy in a suitcase. Though she was excited to role play as a TSA agent, Maya said she was in awe seeing how quickly firefighters put on their gear.

“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter, but now I’m encouraged even more,” she said.

priscella.vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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