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ICON A5 Visits Montross Middle School

ICON A5 Visits Montross Middle School

By Patty Kelly Long, Westmoreland County Public Schools

Montross Middle School GEAR UP students have had several unique educational experiences recently.  As part of learning about various careers, the Virginia Department of Aviation brought their ICON A5 aircraft to Montross Middle School on May 18. The ICON A5 is part of the Introduction to Flight program that is based out of the DOAV offices at Richmond International Airport.

Before it began its journey to Montross Middle School, the DOAV staff had to make sure the plane would fit at the school. Principal Eddie Bowen and staff measured three different sites to see which one would best adapt to the use of a plane. After much searching, the lot behind the school cafeteria was deemed large enough for the plane to visit. DOAV requires a flat surface of at least 55 feet by 40 feet.

After making sure the plane could be properly set up, the DOAV team arrived without issue for their first visit to Westmoreland County schools. The team tows the ICON A5 plane to various sites across the Commonwealth. The two-seat aircraft is based on an open trailer and pulled with a Ford Transit van that has a flight simulator inside. The team sets up the plane and pulls out the wings. The whole transition takes less than 20 minutes to make it ready for its student guests. The Virginia Department of Aviation team members were Betty Wilson, Public Relations and Education Manager, David Halstead, Public Relations and Education Coordinator and Kim Anderson, Transportation Operator and Presenter.  Both Ms. Wilson and Mr. Anderson have been flying for over a quarter of a century.

The ICON A5 plane is a very unique aircraft. Its first prototype was flown in 2008 and the first production flown in July 2014. There have only been 200 built so far. The one at MMS was plane number six off the assembly line. The wingspan is 34.8 feet and the ICON A5 is 23 feet long and eight feet high. It has retractable gear and a spin-resistant airframe and parachute system, which fascinated the students. One would need $359,000 to $399,000 to purchase an ICON A5 plane.

After a walk-by from sixth graders, the seventh grade classes were then brought out by groups of 20.  Each group was given a brief discussion on flight and how this plane could be manipulated on either land or water. Two students were then given the opportunity to sit in the plane and receive pilot instructions from one of the DOAV team members. Each group of two students spent approximately five to ten minutes practicing moving the flight controls and flaps. After the sessions, each student received a wooden balsa airplane to put together and practice flying on the adjacent grass field. Throughout the sessions, questions about flying and becoming a pilot were addressed.

Over a hundred students were able to participate in this event. Montross Middle School and its GEAR UP program appreciated the efforts of the Virginia Department of Aviation and their exciting program.

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