Kids Spread Their Wings in Simulator

For his first flight, pilot Ryan Bevier swooped down over a tiny island, circled a lighthouse then leveled off the aircraft before trying a few daredevil stunts, including a full loop.

“I just went all the way around,” Bevier said. “That was fun! I want one of these built into my room.”

As Bevier, 17, made his flight, San Clemente High School classmates Rusty Duke, 17, and Christine Shortt, 18, cheered him on, waiting eagerly for their turns to fly the blue-and-white-striped airplane displayed on the monitor of the NASA virtual reality flight simulator.

But a power surge temporarily shut down operations aboard the Mobile Aeronautics Education Laboratory, postponing their turns to another day.

“My attitude is, the Space Shuttle never takes off on time,” teacher Celia Vanderpool said as she turned away students arriving for their scheduled visits to the cockpit.

About 30 students did make the virtual cross-country flight Monday, though, taking the controls at workstations aboard the mobile aeronautics laboratory, which has been operating since October.

The simulator, housed in a 53-foot-long trailer, allows students to use math and science skills with equipment used by professionals in the aeronautics field. At one workstation students learn how to design aircraft and chart a flight from Washington to San Francisco.

Supplied by Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, the simulator began its Orange County visit in San Clemente because Vanderpool teaches a class in aviation science and meteorology, and was the 1997 recipient of NASA’s Women in Aerospace Education Award.

Beginning today, students from three other Capistrano Unified School District campuses--Marco Forster, Los Flores and Niguel Hills--also will have an opportunity to visit the traveling NASA laboratory.

The simulator will return to Orange County on March 25-29 for the National Society of Black Engineers conference in Anaheim.