Franklin County

Lexington teens take to the skies at aviation camp

An unused barf bag blew out of the door of the little Cessna 172 just moments after it rolled to a stop.

It was a good sign.

Just a few minutes before, 16-year-old Nicole Jordan had text-messaged her mother from the plane, from somewhere in the air between Frankfort and Lexington, that she wasn't feeling so well.

”I don't feel great. LOL (laugh out loud). I'm hungry,“ she wrote to Jeanna Jordan, who was waiting for the plane to land outside the Aviation Museum of Kentucky at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

The Monday morning plane trip was the grand finale to the aviation camp session that Nicole and April Cook, both of Lexington, attended earlier in June. Uncooperative weather had prevented them from flying just after their other camp activities ended, so their trip was rescheduled for Monday.

”I like the feeling of being above everything,“ April, 15, said just before the plane took off from Lexington.

She is thinking about becoming a bush pilot who ferries Christian missionaries someday.

Nicole said she would like to pilot a military plane, but doesn't want to join the military.

The teenagers weren't just passengers on Monday's round-trip flight. Nicole helped pilot the single-engine plane as it left Blue Grass Airport and headed toward the Frankfort airport. Her queasiness may have had something to do with those 360-degree turns she made over Frankfort on the blustery day.

April sat in the pilot's seat on the return flight to Lexington. She kept turns to a minimum out of consideration for her queasy co-camper.

The girls guided the plane under the direction of Jeremy Growdon, a certified flight instructor, who handled the landings.

”In the gusty winds we can't let them land, obviously,“ he said.

All in all, the trip was a lot of fun, the teens said.

Although they're not experienced enough to hold a pilot's license, the girls are old pros when it comes to aviation camp. April has attended five times; Nicole, twice.

Sessions sponsored by the museum have been held each summer since 1996. The program has expanded over the years, in part because many participants like aviation camp so much, they keep coming back year after year, said Sheila Miller, the museum's education director, who oversees the program.

In general, the camp is for youths 10 to 15, but sometimes exceptions are made. This summer, camp sessions, which usually last a couple of days, are being held not only in Lexington, but in Louisville, Bowling Green, Somerset, Madisonville, Pikeville and Hazard.

Campers come from all over the country, and there has been at least one from Brazil, Miller said.

Participants learn about aircraft parts; the forces of flight — lift, drag, gravity and thrust; the motions of flight — yaw, pitch and turn and roll; and the history of aircraft. They test their skills on flight simulators and learn how to route a flight with an aeronautical chart.

Camp sessions also can include field trips to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

In the end, campers put their knowledge to work by taking the controls of a plane under the guidance of a flight instructor.

Currently it costs $209 to attend aviation camp. Some scholarships are available.

”We're not here to make a profit off this,“ Miller said. The museum wants to provide an opportunity for the youth of Kentucky to experience aviation.

So far, about 3,700 youths have attended aviation camp.

”We'll be over 4,000 by the end of the summer,“ she said.

A survey is in the works to find out how many former campers have gone on to further studies in aviation or have made a career of it.

A couple of months ago, Miller ran into a former camper who told her he'd just gotten a job as a pilot for UPS in Louisville. Miller knows of several who have gotten pilot's licenses and at least a couple who were accepted to attend the Air Force Academy, she said.

For more information

Go to This year, all but a July 17-18 session in Somerset and a July 21-22 session in Pikeville are full.