HKSB News Release
Republic Airport Plays Host to Camp Helen Keller
Farmingdale, New York, July 17, 2009 — It might have been one of the hottest days of summer, but no one seemed to notice. Not when you were one of 17 lucky campers being given a very personal and very exclusive tour.
Helen Keller Services for the Blind and Farmingdale State College provided this summer’s campers with something special — a lesson on aviation. Louis A. Scala, Associate Professor of Aviation for Farmingdale State, teamed up with Larry Lopez and Mike Hughes of the College’s Aviation Education Center at Republic Airport to donate their time and teach the children how planes work.
Prof. Lou, as the children call him, teaches piloting and aviation at the same campus site on which Helen Keller Services for the Blind holds its summer camp program. “Maybe it’s because I too grew up with vision problems, the kids in the camp hold a special place in my heart,” said Prof. Scala.
The morning began with a lecture on the four elements of aviation (the airplane, the airport, the airway, and government oversight, in case you were wondering!). Prof. Scala also explained different terms and phrases used, like pilots flying “blind,” which the children found fascinating. “Just like some of you use your canes, pilots use their instruments to see where they are going,” explained the Professor.
The Professor then turned the children over to Director of Maintenance Larry Lopez, who explained the importance of constantly checking the planes to make sure all the parts work properly. Camper Matt Lichtenstein thought Mr. Lopez was the “coolest guy there ‘cause he gets to take the planes apart and put them all back together!’” Program Director Mike Hughes gave the kids ground rules on how to behave on the tarmac (as the runway is active) and assisted Prof. Scala and Mr. Lopez in providing the children with a unique hands-on demonstration. Using a 4-seater Piper and a 2-seater Cessna, the children touched the wings and the tail, and even sat in the cockpit, grabbing the wheel and imagining they were the pilot of the day. “I can’t believe I got to steer,” said camper Shada Irby. “I love it here!”
Created in 1953, Camp Helen Keller is a free, six-week day camp for blind or visually impaired children ages 5 to 15 and is located on the spacious campus of Farmingdale State — a coeducational, public college with more than 6,800 students pursuing degrees in one of 35 academic disciplines.