PCAM Leads Excel for Youth Aviation & Drone Class

July 9, 2019

Art Hayssen led a four-person team from the PCAM Education Committee conducting a week of aviation classes utilizing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Kevin Quirk, Charley Taylor and Evan Jacobs joined Art in giving twenty-four 6th through 9th Graders unique insights into aviation.

Dana Hunt’s video “Full Throttle opened the first day of classroom activities as attendees were tasked to identify the many types of aircraft appearing in the Hunt Productions video that featured performances of aircraft at the Wings Over Wine Country Airshow.

Flight Instructor Art Hayssen congratulates Teaching Aide Evan Jacobs after Evan soloed in both a fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter on his sixteenth birthday. Congratulations Evan!

Art, a 40+ year Santa Rosa Junior College faculty member and longtime area flight instructor, covered the age and flight hours requirements for various pilot licenses. Stating “You can Fly a plane before you can drive a car,” Art got the attention of the audience. Citing Teaching Aide Evan Jacobs’ feat of soloing in both a fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter on his sixteenth birthday, served as a real-life example of flying possibilities for this class full of potential aviators.

Students line up to test-fly the paper airplanes they made as part of the curriculum.

The first day’s discussions also included how and why airplanes fly; a timeline of aviation history from Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, the Montgolfier brothers experimental flights of hot air balloons in the 1780s and Samuel Langley’s efforts at steam powered flight in the 1890s. Art’s extensive library of videos covered aerodynamics and aviation nomenclature. The day ended with students building paper airplanes using plans for a classic delta dart wing or a Nakamura slow-flight design. Flight tests followed in the spacious Sonoma State classroom.

Tuesday included Art’s review of flight control surfaces, Newton’s and Bernoulli’s Principles, basic flight instruments as well as the latest in glass cockpits and electronic aids to flight and navigation. Art next conducted a flight planning overview including a PowerPoint on weather hazards and other factors to consider before flying. Charley’s PowerPoint covered the many educational and on-the-job opportunities to begin a career in aviation. The more immediate steps included community service internships and volunteering, Aviation Explorer Scouts, Aviation Merit Badge classes, Civil Air Patrol and High School Junior ROTC programs. He also covered future educational planning including appointments to the nation’s four service academies, ROTC scholarships at over 200 colleges and universities, military service, fixed base operator employment (think Sonoma Jet Center), flight instruction, airline careers, airport employment, and various fire, ambulance and law aviation units around the area.

A lesson in riveting showed the students how many aircraft are built.

Wednesday’s class began with Art’s discussion on airport operations, including monitoring real-time broadcasts from the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (KSTS), the aviation phonetic alphabet, and obtaining the latest automatic terminal information system (ATIS) alerts from KSTS. Using aircraft charts and graphs, Art covered flight performance considerations. The day’s highlight was Kevin Quirk (builder of seven kit-built aircraft) sharing many of his aircraft construction skills. All 24 students got hands-on experience working with aircraft aluminum, Cleco Fasteners, rivet tools and setting rivets as they crafted take-home examples of their work.

A visit to the local airport included a stop at PCAM to sit in the cockpits of historic aircraft, and a climb to the top of the control tower to see air traffic controllers in action.

Thursday featured the field trip to the Pacific Coast Air Museum, where students and parents were briefed on airport control tower operations followed by a trip up into the tower to observe FAA air controllers at work directing flight departures, arrivals and ground taxi. Several dedicated docents were on hand to explain the Museum’s historic aircraft and allow students to sit in open cockpits of the F-4 Phantom II, the F-106 Delta Dart, the T-37 Tweet, the HU-16 Albatross, and Kevin’s RV-12 Sport Light. Getting up close and inside these veteran military planes and Kevin’s RV gave our students a clear understanding of what aviation is all about.

Friday started with Art using aircraft charts and graphs to calculate aircraft weight and balance as well as take off and landing data for sea level and Lake Tahoe on a typical summer day (the effects of density altitude!) Art also presented a PowerPoint of his many flights into airfields around the world including Africa and an unusual tiedown procedure there. Post flight tiedown included placing thorn bushes around the airplane’s undercarriage. This step prevented nearby lions from making chew toys out of those Goodyear rubber tires.

The students built and flew radio-controlled drones. All drones were successfully test-flown, so congratulations to everyone!

The week’s final project consisted of five teams, each constructing a drone from STEM kits made of 70+ parts. After selecting optional configurations and studying the plans, airframes were assembled from various plastic blocks, mounting four or six electric motors and props, adding the electronic receiver board, and installing the battery. After final quality checks and synchronization of each drone with its own controller, flight tests were made. With parents invited to observe this final event, the teams headed outside to a concrete pad and a vast grassy area. While there were some crashes, and on-the-spot repairs, all five drones successfully flew proving each group had successfully demonstrated teamwork at its best.

PCAM wishes to thank a number of people who made this week-long immersion in aviation STEM possible: Sonoma State University’s Kathy Hatcher-England, Program Coordinator – EXCEL For Youth, and her crew of Teaching Assistants; SSU’s Julie Barnes, Administrative Manager at School of Science and Technology (also a PCAM and Education Committee member); Steve Elliot, owner of Fundemonium; Dave and Patty of the FAA; PCAM Docents Greg Ervice, Jim Mattison, Paul Doto, Justin Rains, and Carol Lawson, plus LeeAnn Sacchi and PCAM Education Committee member Janet Doto.


There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.