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Tuesday Travels: Local Airport

Tuesday Travels
Tuesday Travels

Welcome to Tuesday Travels, a summertime series at Traveling with Baby.  This season, my son and I are excited about sharing some local daytrips and field trip ideas for families with little ones.  This weekly series will also feature travel tips for families with kids-in-tow and related product reviews and giveaways.  I enjoy hearing about your traveling adventures, too.  If you have an idea for Tuesday Travels, please e-mail me: drgarnecki[at]gmail[dot]com.


Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport baggage claim
Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport baggage claim

Calvin and a couple of his friends were recently invited to tour the Charlottesville-Albemarle airport.  It doesn’t get more exciting than helicoptors, jets, and propeller planes.  Our tour was presented by the airport’s Executive Director Barbara Hutchinson who treated three young boys to some very cool VIP-status.

First, we toured the baggage claim area which heralded it’s tribute to the home team of the University of Virginia Cavaliers.  Then, she led us to the airport’s headquarters for police and firefighter personnel who heartily greeted the young tourists.  Next, we proceeded on to the flight line to head into the bays for the massive, tank-sized fire trucks.

airport firetrucks

gigantic airport firetrucks

The boys were allowed to climb up into the driver’s area which featured two throttles on the control panel–reminded me of the throttle used on an F-15C fighter jet, except the firetruck doesn’t employ weapons.

Three little boys by a large firetruck wheel

Three little boys by a large firetruck wheel

To fully appreciate the magnitude of these giant trucks, the boys (ages 19 months to 4 years) stood next to the wheels.  I can’t imagine how they rotate the tires on those trucks!

Next, Ms. Hutchinson allowed each of the boys to dress up in the super special and extremely heavy firefighter gear with a special silver coating to protect from fires related to jet fuel which burns at extremely high temperatures.

donning a heavy, silver firefighter jacket

donning a heavy, silver firefighter jacket

We learned that there were several firefighters who also pull double-duty as police officers.

Calvin’s friends later remarked that donning the silver suits and hanging out on the large yellow firetrucks were their highlight of the tour.

It was tough to tear Calvin away from the firetrucks.  In fact, it was only possible with the promise of viewing something even cooler: helicopters.

toddler gets taller with firefighter boots

toddler gets taller with firefighter boots

UVA's Pegasus helicoptor at CHO

UVA's Pegasus helicoptor at CHO

As soon as Calvin saw the helos in the hangar, he pointed to the sky and made his “chook chook chook” helicopter sound.  Ms. Hutchinson explained to the boys that the Pegasus helicoptor is big enough for UVA Health System  teams to transport someone who was seriously sick or injured while lying down in a bed in the back.  The boys were eager to peer inside, but they weren’t allowed to touch the lovely aircraft–pilots tend to get a little finicky about who touches their helos and planes.

We continued along the flight line to view the Civil Air Patrol cessnas (which I flew as a cadet in ROTC), other privately owned small propeller aircraft, and the luxurious private jets.

Leer jet at CHO

Leer jet at CHO

Charlottesville is quite a unique community with folks like author John Grisham and other who can afford to own such expensive transportation.  We learned that there are some people in the community who use aircraft to commute to work–one person flies to his job in Dallas, Texas.  Flying half-way across the country is an awfully long commute!

While wrapping up the flight line tour, the boys saw some jets take-off and land, and they also viewed, from a safe distance, a refueler truck tanking up a private jet.  On the flightline, Calvin had so much fun, he laid down on the tarmac facing the sky and was in complete bliss–not wanting to leave.

As we headed back inside the airport, we were able to enter through the “basement” where airline personnel were loading baggage from the conveyor belt on to the tram to load up the plane.  We proceeded through the back of the ticket counter to the main lobby of the airport.

CHO tour group with Executive Director Barbara Hutchinson

CHO tour group with Executive Director Barbara Hutchinson

We wrapped up the tour with a group photo in front of an artists display of historic aircraft parts painted with emblems from the World War II era.  We learned that the airport features local artists exhibits on a rotating basis every 60 days.

Then, Ms. Hutchinson generously presented the little tourists with their very own luggage tags.  These weren’t just any luggage tags, they were fuzzy like stuffed animals and represented various animals.  Calvin selected a puppy dog after he gingerly touched and admired almost every option available in a basket.  She also presented them with CHO stickers and CHO neoprene luggage handle holders.  Then, she offered the boys a snack from the Market vendor.  Each of the boys picked a piece of fresh fruit to tame their growing appetites.  Talk about VIP treatment for these curious and excited little guys!

You Can Tour An Airport, Too!

IMG_5834CHO used to provide tours for school groups, but the latest TSA restrictions require several personnel for larger groups which isn’t logistically feasible.  According to Hutchinson,

General aviation airports that don’t have commercial service also usually have some type of air show.  For example, Culpeper County Airport has a great show every October that is very family friendly and close by.

Pegasus is also usually very gracious about group visits as long as they are scheduled in advance and medical teams aren’t on a call.  Charlottesville Flight Center is the flight school at CHO, and they will do area flights at a reasonable price for someone with an older child that has the “flight bug”.

She doesn’t mind if folks call CHO for a tour for their own family.

We might not be able to do it immediately, but I will ensure they get a tour somehow.  Our short term parking lot has a great fence line, and parking is free for 30 minutes. If they call ahead to tell me they just want to park and watch, I will advise them of the flight schedule, and I can send them a parking pass as well.

If you live in the Charlottesville area, and you’re interested in scheduling a tour at CHO, contact Barbara Hutchinson directly through e-mail: bhutchinson [at] gocho [dot] com.

From an airport director’s perspective on traveling with kids and knowing the latest do’s and don’t’s with carry-on luggage, Hutchinson recommends  travelers check the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) site for the most current information regarding carry-on luggage.

There’s a special section on the site specifically geared toward traveling with children and information on traveling with formula, breast milk, and juice which is pertinent to moms traveling with and without their babies.  There’s also a section specifically geared toward travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.  Remember, this is the TSA which means the rules are subject to change at any time.  So, make a point to check their site for the latest rules before each flying excursion.

Get Your Family-Oriented Traveling News Fix

Check out previous editions of Tuesday Travels, and stay-tuned for next week’s post when I’ll discuss painless travel tips for car or plane.

–By Dr. Dolly
Twitter me: drdolly

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Dolly! Wonderful post & great pictures. I enjoyed our visit & look forward to seeing you soon.

  2. What a great field trip to my favorite airport, CHO! I love seeing the behind-the-scenes shots of the kids enjoying the tour. Thanks so much for sharing the experience.

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