Minn. Wing 'Fling' Showcases 'Aerospace Overload'
Capt. Randall S. Knox
Public Affairs Officer
The “Great Minnesota Wing Aerospace Fling” lived up to its billing as “an exciting day of Aeronautical Overload” for the approximately 240 visitors who turned up for the event at South St. Paul’s Fleming Field.
When the visitors arrived on a rainy Saturday morning, they found the wing hangar transformed into a panoply of aerospace education exhibits and activities. Inside, they were able to ride a hovercraft, operate flight simulators, sit in a powered parachute, conduct air pressure experiments and learn about model rocketry, astronomy, meteorology and more.
Once the rain abated early in the afternoon, outside activities enabled visitors to learn about hot air ballooning, and they were invited to activate the propane burner on the balloon gondola. Drones were demonstrated in search and rescue situations, and an impressive display and demonstration of radio-controlled aircraft were provided as well.
One of the day’s highlights was the arrival of a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter and a brief talk by its pilot, State Patrol Officer Todd Merwin.
Guest speaker for the event was retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Kirk Ransom, an F-4 reconnaissance weapons system operator who flew 60 missions over North Vietnam. His presentation included slides that provided a thorough overview of the F-4 and the reconnaissance camera systems, as well as highlights from his tour in Vietnam.
“I found his presentation very captivating,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Izabella Raleigh of the Anoka Composite Squadron.
Organizers hoped to provide a thrilling, fun-filled day of aerospace activities for CAP members, friends and family. Lt. Col. Paul Prior, the wing’s director of aerospace education, traced the event’s origins to “a brainstorming session back in January 2019. We didn’t really have set expectations.”
The plans came together, though, when Maj. James Zurales, aerospace education officer for the Viking Composite Squadron and project officer for the event, “picked up the ball and got things going,” Prior said. “It just grew as it went along, and the event today really showcases the AE skills that Civil Air Patrol has.”
Zurales added, “Initially I was disappointed in the weather. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the guests had to stay inside more.
“We had such a wide diversity of activities and exhibits inside the hangar – there was more than enough to keep everyone interested and occupied. It was a fantastic day and a total success,” Zurales said.
Senior Master Sgt. John Vanderhoof, command noncommissioned officer for the Minnesota Wing, said he “didn't really know what to expect but was really impressed when I walked into the hangar. There were a number of non-CAP people here that get exposed to aerospace education.”
Col. James Garlough, wing commander, echoed the sentiment: “This was a wonderful event to showcase what CAP can do for the community – just a great event.”