HILL AIR FORCE BASE — If you’re teaching STEM students about flight, doing it within the walls of an actual airplane seems like the ideal setting.
The Hill Aerospace Museum and Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah has opened a new, undoubtedly unique classroom for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students — a Vietnam era C-130 Hercules.
Crews took an old C-130 that had been stored at the museum for decades, stripped it down, renovated it, and then connected it to the museum’s second gallery, where it’s become a permanent part of the Lt. Gen. Marc C. Reynolds Aerospace Center for Education. The center’s STEM Summer Passport program provides a 12-week crash course for local students in subjects like electricity, chemistry, astronomy, weather, magnetics, flight and more.
Robb Alexander, executive director of the foundation, said the old Hercules is the museum’s fifth interactive classroom. The plane was painted and outfitted with heating, ventilation and air conditioning. All new gauges and webbed seats were installed, windows were replaced and doors were sealed. Aside from missing its wings, which had to be cut off to accommodate its position at the museum, the plane still looks just like a working C-130.
Mark Standing, an education instructor at the museum, said the classroom provides an interactive learning component that differs from the traditional museum experience of looking at static aircraft and exhibits on display.
“Often times we hear visitors say, ‘We come to the museum but we never get to see the inside of an airplane,’” Standing said, “And now we will be able to say, ‘Come on in!’”
The museum’s education program will offer lessons integrated with STEM that are related to aerospace and hold scientific experiments and competitions inside the bay of the aircraft, Standing said.
“It’s completely a hands-on experience for the children with multiple uses and purposes,” he said.
Alexander said the heavy lifting of renovation was provided free of charge by Charlie White and his company, White’s Aircraft, Salvage and Parts.
C-130s have been used by the U.S. military since the 1950s. The plane can land and take off in rugged conditions and was first designed for transporting troops, medics and cargo. But in the years since its first flight, the plane has also served as a gunship, been used for search and rescue missions, aerial refueling, firefighting and more.
The plane now serving as a classroom first went into service for the Air Force in 1965. It’s last assignment was in 1995.
“In the past couple weeks we’ve had the opportunity to let some vets in here who flew C-130s during their career,” said Museum Director Aaron Clark. “They come in here and they see it and they smell it and it takes them back and you see them get emotional. It’s really cool.”