Aviation enthusiasts in the metro area are in for a new experience when an attraction by Wings Over the Rockies opens at Centennial Airport July 21. Visitors will be able to engage with interactive …
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Aviation enthusiasts in the metro area are in for a new experience when an attraction by Wings Over the Rockies opens at Centennial Airport July 21.
Visitors will be able to engage with interactive and educational exhibits, watch airplanes take off and land, test flight simulators, and even listen to radio chatter from the airport's air-traffic control tower.
“You can hear what the pilot is hearing,” said Ben Theune, director of marketing for Wings Over the Rockies, a nonprofit that works to educate about aviation and space.
The Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery will be the first phase to open of the nonprofit's Exploration of Flight campus — the nonprofit calls it unique to the nation — where enthusiasts can have fun but also help solve a looming problem in the aerospace industry.
“In aerospace in general, there's a huge lack of qualified personnel,” Theune said. “Boeing estimates that over the next 18 years, in the aviation industry alone, 2 million workers will need to fill pilot gaps, aircraft-maintenance gaps, engineering, air-traffic control — the whole bit.”
The Blue Sky Aviation Gallery will offer the virtual-reality experience of flying in an aircraft and possibly will show what it's like to work other roles in flight, like being in air-traffic control, Theune said. The virtual-reality experiences will complement flight-simulator machines, interacting with the latest industry technology and even the ability to experience flying in a plane through a partnership with the Aspen Flying Club.
After nearly a decade of planning and fundraising, the 19,000-square-foot hangar will be open to the public Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., beginning July 21. The facility sits at 13005 Wings Way in unincorporated Arapahoe County near East County Line Road and South Peoria Street, on the southeast side of the airport.
The campus will also eventually feature the Ozmen Black Sky Space Gallery, based around “cutting-edge space technology and concepts,” the nonprofit's website said. Construction on that project will begin in 2019, the website said.
Other parts of Wings Over the Rockies' 15-acre property at the airport may be taken up by an out-of-state charter school focused on aviation and space, Theune said.
The nonprofit also runs the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, which boasts a collection of aircraft housed in a hangar at the former Lowry Air Force Base grounds in Denver. For more information about the Blue Sky Gallery or the campus at Centennial Airport as a whole, visit ExplorationOfFlight.org.
Centennial Airport, one of the busiest general-aviation airports in the nation, sits mostly in unincorporated Arapahoe County just south of the City of Centennial and extends south into Douglas County. The airport's name predates the city's.
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